Council endorses low-cost options for Michie Drive intersection
Monday, February 6, 2012
Ever since a traffic signal on Hydraulic Road was relocated to accommodate the opening of a new Whole Foods, people who reside and work on Michie Drive in Charlottesville have faced long delays when trying to drive away from their street.
“The intersection just congests to a complete stop three or four times almost daily,” said Andrew Stronge, a graphic designer with Crazy Horse Studios, a business located directly at the intersection.
“We’ve been lucky enough not to have seen any accidents, but you always see people honking, fighting and forcing their way through,” Stronge added, speaking at a City Council meeting.
Michie Drive is a cul-de-sac — home to several apartment complexes, Region Ten’s Meadow Creek Center, and several businesses. Traffic is almost constantly flowing on Hydraulic Road during peak hours, resulting in long waits for motorists making left-hand turns.
“The predominant safety issue at the intersection is the potential for right-angle collisions between westbound through traffic on Hydraulic Road and left-turning traffic from Michie Drive,” said Jeanie Alexander, the city’s traffic engineer. She added that the accidents mostly happened during afternoon commuting hours.
The city commissioned two studies to come up with solutions on how to address the traffic snarls. Engineering firms RK&K and McCormick Taylor were hired to analyze crashes and traffic capacity to suggest potential improvements.
Staff recommended painting markings on the roadway to warn vehicles not to “block the box” by idling within the intersection.
“It’s a very simple thing, but it clarifies who is supposed to be on the road,” Alexander said.
Alexander suggested taking that step first and then spending approximately $10,000 to install a flashing light.
“The idea is to raise driver’s awareness that there is a road there,” Alexander said.
Another future option would be to reconfigure the intersection of the U.S. 250 Bypass and Hydraulic Road so that traffic traveling on to Hydraulic would have to stop, rather than the current yield sign. Alexander said that would likely cost around $600,000 because a second right-hand turn lane would need to be constructed.
The council agreed to follow Alexander’s initial recommendation as a first step.
“We have to explore the initial cheaper alternatives and see how they work before we think of large expenditures,” Mayor
Staff did not recommend that left-hand turns to be eliminated out of a concern it would restrict access. An option to put a traffic signal at the location does not meet any of the nine so-called “warrants” required by the Virginia Department of Transportation.
“The installation of a traffic signal may seem to be simple, but the manual on uniform traffic control devices dictates this is not a reasonable option,” Alexander said.
Several speakers during the council’s public comment period called for the city to install a traffic light at the intersection anyway. Their request was championed by several councilors.
“You haven’t convinced me we can’t put a stop light there,” Councilor
Alexander said if a signal were put, it was likely that delays would increase elsewhere on Hydraulic Drive, resulting in longer lines of cars.
An option to build a road connecting Michie Drive with an
extended Hillsdale Drive
was dismissed due to a $1.5 million estimated cost as well as a lack of space to build the route.
However, councilors pushed for a second connection to be further studied as a long-term solution as the neighborhood redevelops.
“We are designing Hillsdale Drive right now and this is the time to make sure there are connections with Hillsdale,” said Councilor
Kathleen M. Galvin