On December 19, 2007,

the MPO Policy Board held its final meeting of the year

, with discussions on the Eastern Connector, three amendments to the Transportation Improvement Program, and a farewell to City Councilor

Kevin Lynch

, who is leaving office. The MPO Policy Board is chaired by Albemarle County Supervisor

David Slutzky

(Rio).


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WIDENING PROJECT ON US 29 APPROVED

The MPO approved an amendment to the

Transportation Improvement Program

to begin the process of widening U.S. 29 between Polo Grounds Road and Airport Road. The MPO voted to approve the use of over $2 million in federal funds to begin preliminary engineering on the project.

During the public comment period, CHART member and City transportation activist John Pfaltz said he would rather see the money go towards the creation of a parallel road network. MPO members pointed out that would not be permitted because the federal funds are for primary roads, and any new roads such as Berkmar Drive Extended would be considered secondary funds. Pfaltz said he knew that, but thought the MPO should send a message to the


Virginia Department of Transportation


(VDOT).

Slutzky said he was confident Berkmar could be paid for in part by developer proffers, so he saw no need to deny the widening of US 29. Supervisor

Dennis Rooker

(Jack Jouett) said the narrowing of 29 north of Polo Grounds Road created a safety hazard, and that completing the widening of 29 to Airport Road was one of the County’s priorities for primary road funding.


JAUNT OFFICIAL CONCERNED ABOUT FINANCIAL IMPACT OF FARE-FREE

Donna Shaunesey of

JAUNT

presented an update on the para-transit service, which provides ride services for human service agencies and the general public in the five counties around Charlottesville. Shaunesey passed out a hand-out which showed how much revenue would have to be made up if the Charlottesville Transit Service goes fare-free.

“By law, if CTS is fare-free, our services in the urban area also have to be fare-free,” Shaunesey said. That would likely mean more riders, and she estimated a $314,420 increase in local funding to make up the difference.  Shaunesey says when the transit system in Chapel Hill, North Carolina did away with fares, the para-transit service saw ridership shoot up 21 percent the next year.

However, JAUNT would continue to be able to charge riders for services who do not live in jurisdictions where there is free transit service available. JAUNT is not currently a party to the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) under development by Charlottesville and Albemarle.  However, the RTA approach

endorsed by the MPO at their November meeting

ensures the door is open to the agency being invited to join in the future.


UVA UPDATE

UVa Land Use Architect Julia Monteith said a system that will allow passengers of the University Transit System to track buses via GPS will go online in January. The system is being put into place by the New Zealand company Connectionz, which earlier this month reported a financial loss due to delays in implementing a similar system in Charlottesville.



Monteith also reported that two new UVa parking garages will open in late winter. The “Arts Grounds garage” next to the School of Architecture and the new North Garage on West Main Street are both under construction with an estimated completion date of late February or early March 2008. That will mean a new traffic signal at Crispell Avenue and the 9th-10th Connector (aka Roosevelt Brown Connector). Monteith said the grade of the area prevented the construction of a roundabout at that intersection. A complex intersection of 11th Street, Lee Street and Crispell behind the Medical Center is also being studied for improvements, but there is no final plan.


EASTERN CONNECTOR

During a discussion of the MPO’s FY 2008 work program, several members sought more information on the Eastern Connector, and requested a formal briefing from the County staff members who are overseeing the corridor location study. Members of the public who attended a pair of recent information sessions on the proposed road overwhelmingly questioned the need for the road. That prompted MPO members to talk about the current state of the area’s transportation models. Supervisor Dennis Rooker attended the second meeting on November 29, and suggested that the consultant did not correct misconceptions that were being claimed by some attendees. The MPO is responsible for the area’s official transportation forecast, upon which the consultants’ numbers were based.


TIP AMENDMENTS

In addition to the widening of US 29, the MPO adopted two other amendments to the TIP. Albemarle County is now eligible for Highway Safety Improvement Project funding from the Federal Highway Safety Administration. With the TIP amendment, those funds can now be used for safety projects on rural roads.

The other amendment will allow the Lewis and Clark Exploratory Center being constructed in Darden Towe Park to receive federal funding for the project, which includes interpretative trails, a ferry service and new parking.

VDOT’s John Giometti reported that the current Commissioner of VDOT is interested in streamlining the TIP process. More information will be made available at a future MPO meeting.


PRAISE FOR KEVIN LYNCH

Supervisor Dennis Rooker made a motion to pass a resolution thanking City Councilor Kevin Lynch for his service on the Council and the MPO board.  Other members asked Lynch if he would consider joining the CHART committee. He said he would keep it in mind, but wants to take a couple of months off.


TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

Sean Tubbs

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