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Hillsdale Drive construction depends on right-of-way acquisition

By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, November 17, 2010




An engineer demonstrates a feature of the Hillsdale Drive extension at Tuesday’s public hearing


The fate of

Hillsdale Drive Extended

, a proposed one-mile parallel road to U.S. 29 in Charlottesville, depends on how much land the city can acquire for free or reduced cost.

“We have been moving forward saying that we can’t afford the right-of-way, and it needs to be donated in order for us to construct Hillsdale Drive,” said Jeanette Janiczek, a city traffic engineer in charge of the project.

Hillsdale Drive Extended is planned as a two-lane road that will stretch behind the U.S. Post Office facility from Greenbrier Drive south connecting to Hydraulic Road. A five-foot-wide sidewalk will be built on one side, with a larger mixed-use path on the other side for cyclists.

The road is being designed to handle an average daily traffic count of 16,200 vehicles with a speed limit of 25 miles per hour. New traffic signals will be installed at the Greenbrier and Seminole Court intersections, with a roundabout to be built at Zan Road in the Seminole Square Shopping Center.

Construction is estimated to cost around $9.3 million, with another $15.5 million assumed for purchase of right-of-way.

Janiczek said the city cannot enter into right-of-way negotiations with landowners until a timeline for the road’s construction is developed. However, the city held a design public hearing Tuesday to advance the development process.

“By going to this meeting, we’re going to hopefully hear what people have to say, change the plan as needed, get approval from City Council and VDOT, and then we can enter the right of way stage,” Janiczek said.


In all, 25 parcels of land will be affected. At least two businesses in the Seminole Square Shopping Center would be relocated. Several of the parcels are owned by large developers including the Jessup family and the

Great Eastern Management Company

. Efforts to reach both for comment were unsuccessful at press time.

The southern terminus of the road has already been built by the developers of the new Whole Foods grocery store and is open to traffic. The city did not purchase the land for that small stretch, a move that Janiczek called encouraging.

“We’ve been successful in acquiring property from Kroger, Dominion Virginia Power and Whole Foods,” Janiczek said. “That does show this [approach] is not just talk.”

However,

the city did agree to give $2.1 million from the city’s Economic Development Authority

to Meadowbrook Creek LLC for construction costs of the first section of the road. It is anticipated that money will be recouped by the city through higher sales tax receipts from the store.

Another obstacle that has been cleared is the fate of the Regal Cinema that currently blocks the new section of Hillsdale. At one point,

Regal had announced plans to expand its existing building

, but later decided to relocate to Albemarle Place across the street and out of city limits into the county.

Janiczek said the city likely will not begin saving money for the road’s construction until after 2016. Until then, the city will apply its share of VDOT funding to the $9.2 million Belmont Bridge replacement project.

While over 75 people attended the hearing, only three people made public comments.

Sherman White, a native of Charlottesville who worked for VDOT for 18 years, welcomes the road but says the road’s first phase has created a traffic hazard for residents of Michie Drive. That street is down the hill from the new intersection of Hillsdale and Hydraulic Roads.

“There is no traffic control, and right now it’s haphazard,” White said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

Russell “Mac” Lafferty, a county planning commissioner representing Bike Charlottesville, said the design for the mixed-use path would not incorporate two-way traffic essential for commuting by bicycle.

“The way this is designed, the only connection you’re providing is by automobile,” Lafferty said. “This is the only chance we have to incorporate bicycle accommodations. If we miss it here, we’ll miss it for a long time.”

The city will take written comments on the Hillsdale project through Nov. 30. Final plans are expected to be finished by the spring of 2011.