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MPO discusses transportation forecasting, funding for trains, second ramp at Best Buy

By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

At their meeting on Wednesday, January 27, 2010, the

MPO Policy Board

heard details regarding a new transportation planning tool, elected new officers, and passed two resolutions related to finding new sources of transportation funding.


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MPO seeks greater role in modeling travel demand





Stephen Williams addresses the MPO


The

Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission

, which operates the MPO, has created a new travel-demand model and is seeking to be the lead agency for conducting simulations of how new developments will affect traffic patterns. According to TJPDC and MPO director

Stephen Williams

, the new model is built with updated software and can provide a more detailed analysis of how people would get around as new destinations are created through individual land use decisions.

“[The model] provides us with an analysis of future transportation needs and that’s really at the heart of transportation planning,” Williams said. “It’s difficult for us to do our jobs here at the MPO and to provide the MPO Policy Board with information if we don’t have access to the model ourselves.”

Previously travel demand forecasts have been conducted by Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) staff or third-party consultants. Williams said with the data close at hand, MPO staff will be able to explain results to area planners as the model is used to evaluate individual land use decisions.

To conduct the work, the TJPDC recently hired planned transportation planner Johnny Han. Han previouslyworked as a traffic analyst for the Atlanta-based firm

HNTB

.

“He will primarily be focusing on traffic analysis, traffic demand modeling and traffic simulation,” Williams said. “[Hans’ services] will be able to augment the capabilities of the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County.”

A demonstration of the model will be given at the March meeting of the MPO. The subject of the analysis will be the

proposed extension of Berkmar Drive

as well as the accompanying bridge across the South Fork of the Rivanna River.


MPO to submit federal request for 250 Improvement

Prior to the MPO’s January meeting, Congressman Tom Perriello (D-Ivy) had asked MPOs in Virginia’s 5th District if they had any requests for federal funding in the next fiscal year.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) said he would like to request federal funding for an additional lane on southbound U.S. 29 from Hydraulic Road to 250 Bypass, as well as a second on-ramp leading to the bypass.

“It is a project that is high in the City’s priority list,” Rooker said. “It’s recognized as the most heavily trafficked part of Route 29.”

The project, which is in the preliminary engineering stage, is being administered by the City of Charlottesville. The city’s project manager, Jeanette Janiczek, said $4.7 million has already been allocated to the project, including a $500,000 contribution from the City of Charlottesville as a cost share towards $1 million through the Virginia Department of Transportation’s revenue sharing program. The balance of the current funding comes a proffer from the Albemarle Place development as well as $2.2 million in primary road funds from VDOT.

If the request is successful, there is a possibility some of the previously allocated money could be transferred to another project.


Train advocate asks for MPO support on legislation

Meredith Richards

of the group Cville Rail attended the meeting to ask the MPO to support legislation to establish a statewide committee to study ongoing funding of passenger rail.

SJ63

calls for a 10-person subcommittee of both House of Delegates and State Senators that would look at ways to both expand and fund rail service in Virginia.

“Virginia is beginning to invest in expanding inter-city rail and our new Lynchburg to DC service is the first one,” Richards said. The daily service, which started in October 2009, is a three-year demonstration project funded by the Department of Rail and Public Transportation. Richards said her group wants to prepare for continued funding.

“We are thinking proactively about looking to the future because Virginia will need some resources,” Richards said. If approved by the General Assembly, this subcommittee would be responsible for identifying new sources.

The MPO passed a resolution to support Richards’ request.

Other legislation being tracked by the MPO includes:


Two new members join MPO, Councilor Huja becomes chair

Albemarle County Supervisor

Rodney Thomas

(Rio) and City Councilor

Kristin Szakos

attended their first meetings as members of the MPO.

City Councilor

Satyendra Huja

was elected as the group’s chair.

Thomas said he was looking forward to working with the MPO as they attempt to sort out transportation issues. While a member of the

Albemarle County Planning Commission

, Thomas served on the MPO’s technical subcommittee.


In other news at the MPO:


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