Charlottesville residents recently weighed in on a new vision for one of the city’s main thoroughfares.
The city contracted with local engineering firm EPR last fall to conduct a study of the corridor made up of Fifth Street, Ridge Street, Ridge-McIntire Road and McIntire Road between Harris Road and Harris Street. It plans to conclude the study this summer.
“The purpose of the study is to identify short-, mid- and long-term solutions to address congestion and to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety,” said Bill Wuensch, principal transportation engineer for EPR. “It will result in a list of projects that the city can prioritize and move forward with to find funding.”
“The different segments have a different feel and a different nature to them,” Wuensch said. “Fifth Street on the south, coming up from Harris Road, the Wegmans area off of Cherry Avenue — that’s a higher-speed corridor [and] mostly residential. It’s pretty different than Ridge-McIntire that starts at West Main going up to Preston … then going north from Preston up to the intersection — that has a whole other feel.”
The city and EPR have examined corridor safety and crash history, studied existing and future vehicular and multimodal conditions and collected and assembled data, including traffic counts, crash data and historical traffic data. They also collected public feedback on the different segments of the corridor.
Following a community meeting in January, Wuensch and his colleagues used public feedback to create main themes for the study. Each theme was then put on a board with multiple graphics and aerial photos, explaining the current layout of the corridor and potential ways to improve it.
At an open house Thursday at CitySpace, Wuensch invited the approximately 30 attendees to view each board. Multiple comment sheets, three large notepads and a table-long aerial drawing of the corridor also were available for attendees to write down their thoughts.
One person asked if the study included bike and pedestrian traffic data in its plans. Wuensch said the study counted pedestrians at intersections but did not count bicycles.
“It’s always good to have that information … we hear that facilities are desired out there, either for now or for the future,” said Wuensch. “That’s what these drawings reflect — that we really made an effort to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians in the future.”
The study proposes adding a roundabout to the third section of the corridor, which extends from Ridge-McIntire Road at West Main Street to Preston Avenue. It anticipates that the roundabout will calm traffic, improve pedestrian and bicycle connectivity, improve safety and traffic flow and recognize the history of the area.
Another information board explained the benefits of a roundabout, as well as a restricted crossing U-turn. Both designs can improve safety, move traffic more smoothly and better accommodate heavy traffic without adding more lanes, according to EPR.
Attendees wrote down many comments, questions and concerns. Some expressed that there needed to be climbing bike lanes and bike facilities on Cherry Avenue and Elliott Avenue, while others said they did not want any new stoplights or stop signs and wanted to replace lights with roundabouts.
Other questions centered on the location of bus stops in relation to crosswalks; the placement of bike facilities between Monticello Avenue and East Market Street/Preston Avenue; the impact of bicycles and traffic congestion at the roundabout; and what would signal cyclists to exit multi-use lanes.
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee also commented on the study at its meeting during the second half of the open house.
The committee discussed the application of shared-use paths along the corridor. While a few members agreed the paths could be useful, others thought they could be too confusing.
“I would personally rather see if you got 10 feet for a shared-use path … the bike lane just get that much bigger or [have] a bigger buffer,” committee member Frank Deviney said.
Niko Test, another committee member, recommended raising up bike lanes to the same level as shared-use paths.
Committee members also stressed the importance of education, especially for cyclists who ride on sidewalks. It proposed creating a robust safety education program for cyclists and pedestrians.
EPR plans to use the feedback from the meeting during its future discussions with the city. After doing further technical analysis, it will create a final draft of recommendations in August.
“Coming out of this, there’s going to be a list of projects, and we’ll work with the city to prioritize them. The city can take those in due time and look for funding sources to implement those projects,” Wuensch said.
For more information on the 5th-Ridge-McIntire Multimodal Corridor Study, visit 5thridgemcintireplan.com.