By Julia Glendening
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
On August 11, 2009, the residents in the area of Hillcrest Road gathered at the
on the Route 250 Bypass to hear updates on how the entrance to their neighborhood will be impacted by the planned
Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange
. This project will connect
Charlottesville’s portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway
(known as McIntire Road Extended) to Route 250 with a grade-separated interchange.
The meeting was a way for the citizens to voice concerns about how traffic patterns in their neighborhood will be affected by the interchange. Common concerns were circulation within the neighborhood, vehicular speeds, effects from the Covenant School located in the neighborhood, and vehicular and pedestrian access.
Residents last met on September 30, 2008 to discuss access issues. After listening to their previous concerns, staff from consultants RK&K compiled two new options, which were presented to the residents at the meeting. Owen Peery from RK&K and Angela Tucker of the City’s Department of Neighborhood Development Services answered many questions from the citizens. Numerous citizens thanked them for their work on the project and said they could tell their previous concerns had influenced the new designs.
“We are trying to make this as painless as possible and also improve your safety in getting out to the bypass,” said Peery.
Currently Birdwood Road and Hillcrest Road, the two neighborhood access points, are both being used as entrances and exits onto Route 250. Peery said Birdwood Road could not be kept as an exit because of the lack of sufficient sight distance to see oncoming traffic. Additionally, there would be danger from increased traffic flow, and signage to warn drivers of entering vehicles would be too confusing.
The first design option would include the construction of a cul-de-sac at the intersection of Birdwood Road and Route 250, which would require all neighborhood traffic to use Hillcrest Road as the sole entrance and exit. Drivers headed towards Hillcrest Road would use the new Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange exit ramp and turn onto Hillcrest Road in a separate lane before the McIntire Road traffic signal. Drivers leaving Hillcrest Road would have to merge onto the exit ramp going east and could change direction at McIntire Road.
The second option had the same entrance and exit at Hillcrest Road, but did included an entrance only option at Birdwood Road (i.e. right turns from Route 250 East onto Birdwood Road only). Peery said this would give Birdwood Road residents another option to reach their houses more quickly, as well as an access point for fire trucks.
One issue was the effects of traffic from the Covenant School located on Birdwood Road. Citizens commented on the importance of examining the width of Hillcrest Road in order to accommodate an increase in traffic. They said parked cars on both sides of Hillcrest Road create a one lane road, which could pose problems for school buses and other drivers.
Residents expressed concern about the possibility of an increase in posted speed on the highway, but Peery said the interchange is designed for speeds of 40 mph and roads are usually designed 5 mph higher than the speed limit that is ultimately posted. He also said RK&K has no jurisdiction over the speed limit, which will be set by City Council. He did acknowledge a concern regarding the speed of cars on the exit ramp and that turning onto Birdwood Road could be difficult.
“This plan is a starter and we will press forward and make it better any way we can,” promised Peery.
A citizen also commented on the importance of having a bicycle path from Hillcrest Road to McIntire Road and Peery responded the project always intended to have a path at that location. He said a bicycle path from Hillcrest Road would connect to the Schenk’s Greenway bicycle path, which will be transferred to the western side of McIntire Road. Peery said the design was intended to allow bicycles and pedestrians to safely and easily access trails in McIntire Park.
Tucker said a design public hearing for the interchange is currently pending for September and if approved by City Council, construction is planned to begin in the fall of 2010. The interchange is estimated to be completed within two years; however, the entire Meadowcreek Parkway cannot open until the
, and the
are all completed. More information is located on the project’s website