The last of three unexpected road proposals for the Charlottesville-Albemarle area included in the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) U.S. 29 corridor study will be dropped from the final report to be completed later this month. Charlottesville City Council asked at their meeting Monday that the proposal to connect U.S. 29 to the 250 Bypass via a partially elevated roadway near the Kroger at Hydraulic Road be eliminated from consideration.
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In October, VDOT announced it had removed both the Leonard Sandridge Road extension and the “Eastern Bypass” from the study. All three proposals have come under criticism from local officials who said they were not consulted about them nor was there data presented to support the recommendations.
This design will have the appearance of a ’mixing bowl’ type intersection which we do not believe is appropriate for our community,” reads the letter from Mayor Dave Norris, which is addressed to Butch Davies of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB).
The letter states that 10 City businesses would be affected by the road and interchange, costing the City over $868,000 a year in taxes. Council also told Davies that it feels the real issue with congestion on U.S. 29 is the proliferation of traffic lights north of Charlottesville.
“I can assure you [the interchange] will not be in our final report unless the City chooses to support it,” said Charles Rasnick of VDOT.
However, the project manager hired to oversee the project had the opportunity to explain the reason why the concept was under consideration. Joe Springer of the Parsons Transportation Group told Council that many of the transportation improvements recommended in Albemarle County’s Places29 Master Plan would not do enough to address congestion on U.S. 29 between Hydraulic Road and the U.S. 250 Bypass.
“There is the project to add an additional lane southbound between Hydraulic Road and extending on to the Route 250 bypass on to Barracks Road,” Springer said. “We do believe that is needed but it doesn’t adequately address long-term needs.”
Instead, Springer said the alternate was suggested as a way to remove through-traffic from U.S. 29 for that stretch of highway, allowing the existing U.S. 29 to serve local traffic. He added that the project would depend on the long-term redevelopment of the area.
“We do believe that it would provide some benefits both in terms of land use and in terms of being able to downgrade the existing stretch of U.S. 29 to make it more livable and walkable,” Springer said.
Councilor Julian Taliaferro said he understood that the existing interchange of U.S. 29 and U.S. 250 is a cause of congestion, but that he was troubled by the new concept.
“The issue of the chokepoint has been created by lack of action to build a bypass and to build connector roads in this area,” Taliaferro said. “It seems to me like a rather short-sighted solution to send this through the City.”
Rasnick told Taliaferro that the concept of the new interchange would not work to help relieve congestion unless the Leonard Sandridge Road extension was also considered. However, that concept was removed in October at the request of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.
“Our feeling was that you needed both of them to be working together,” Rasnick said.
Councilor David Brown questioned whether any business owner would be willing to take a risk to develop properties that had an elevated highway above them. Mayor Dave Norris wanted to know how the concept could be included in a draft study with absolutely no input from City officials.
A final report will be released later this month. It will then go before the CTB for approval.