The next phase of downtown Crozet’s streetscape improvements will get underway with a groundbreaking next month.
However, years of construction work along Crozet Avenue and Jarmans Gap Road have left some residents a little apprehensive about continued disruption to traffic and business.
“The goal is to … build on the character that we have in Crozet, but make it a little more user-friendly,” said Trevor Henry, Albemarle County’s facilities development director. “We want to add some sidewalks, to widen some sidewalks, to connect some businesses and make it easier to navigate as a pedestrian.”
Streetscape amenities will include the building of bike and pedestrian connections from the recently upgraded Jarmans Gap Road, past the new library and into The Square in downtown Crozet.
“There is a new group of people in Crozet that is really trying to walk to services,” said Brenda Plantz of Parkway Pharmacy. “We are excited to see it’s finally going to be made safe.”
The $3.95 million streetscape will be built between January and October. Its appearance will follow similar improvements made along Library Avenue and will include sidewalks, crosswalks, bike lanes, street trees, planted median strips and burial of some overhead utility lines.
A representative from the design firm Kimley-Horn & Associates stressed at a public meeting last week that a detailed phasing plan was intended to minimize disruptions.
“We’ve designed this staging not only to make sure our schedule and efficiency works for the contractor, but also for business owners and for people using Crozet Avenue and to enable you to continue to operate in your daily lives,” said Brian McPeters, Kimley-Horn’s lead engineer.
McPeters said various streets would be reduced to single lanes for construction activity, but only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
One key decision that has not been made is whether Tabor Street at Crozet Avenue will be closed with a detour for two weeks or reduced to one lane during the day with a flagman for a six-week period.
Tabor Street is the main entrance to Crozet Park and several residential neighborhoods, including Parkside Village and Westhall.
“The detour route would take you down High Street through the old Barnes Lumber Yard and deposit you at the intersection of Crozet Avenue and The Square,” McPeters said. “Right now we are waiting for [the Virginia Department of Transportation] to weigh in on this alternative traffic control plan. If VDOT approves it, it would go to the Board of Supervisors for [its review].”
“Why should we suffer just so people who live up Tabor Street can have four weeks less of construction?” asked Rick Ruscher, owner of Crozet Hardware. “It’s our livelihood.”
“It’s an extraordinarily bad parking situation now [in The Square] and people park in the middle of the road to go in and get a coffee,” Ruscher added.
“The detour is probably not the best for businesses on The Square, but as they say, ‘You can’t make a cake without breaking an egg,’” said Plantz. “We are just going to have to be positive about it.”
Another resident inquired about how quickly the roads would have a finished, smooth travel surface, particularly with the block-by-block approach to the improvements.
“I’m afraid my Volvo is going to fall apart because of the way the road construction is being conducted on Crozet Avenue right now,” said Alice Lucan about the area near the Dairy Queen. “It’s impossible to drive. … I am going to send you my bill when I have to have my wheels realigned.”
“I know that’s not part of this project,” added Lucan, “but my concern is whether this construction team will conduct itself in the same way and we’ll have this nightmare to drive through for the next six to nine months?”
McPeters promised a much smoother final product as each side of Crozet Avenue is completed.
“Will there be cases where we have cuts [with gravel] for a period of a week or three days? Sure,” McPeters said. “But you will be running on asphalt when we shift you over.”
The Board of Supervisors is expected to make a decision on the Tabor Street detour in early 2014. A project website and email notification list has been published at www.albemarle.org/crozetstreetscape.