The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization on Wednesday officially endorsed area applications for future transportation projects in the second round of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s new funding process.
“These are the requests from both the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle that come locally,” said Chip Boyles, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, which houses the MPO.
Legislation approved by the General Assembly in 2014 mandated that VDOT create a system in which transportation projects compete with each other in order to receive money.
Under the Smart Scale initiative, projects are scored on several factors, including how they would reduce congestion, spur economic development and improve safety. The deadline to apply for projects is Friday.
This is the second cycle of the Smart Scale process and is for funding that would be doled out in fiscal years 2022 and 2023.
“We’re expecting to have approximately $750 million to allocate over the two outermost years of [VDOT’s] six-year program,” said Stacy Londrey, communications manager for VDOT’s Culpeper District.
“The scores become available in January,” said John Lynch, administrator of the Culpeper District.
The next round of funding will not occur until 2018.
In the first cycle, the city of Charlottesville was successful in obtaining nearly $30 million for three streetscape projects.
This time around, Charlottesville is requesting funding for two projects, including partial funding for the West Main Streetscape project. The most recent cost estimate is $29.5 million, and City Council has allocated $10 million to the project in its capital improvement program.
“We have a rough estimate now and the city has committed money,” said City Councilor Kathy Galvin said. “But it’s not the full estimate.”
A more complete estimate will be known in January when the firm Rhodeside & Harwell presents schematic drawings for the project.
The city’s second request is for improvements at the intersection of Barracks Road and Emmet Street. These would include new right turn lanes on northbound Emmet Street and westbound Barracks Road, pedestrian refuge islands on both streets and a multiuse sidewalk along Emmet Street.
Albemarle was not successful getting any projects funded in the last cycle but will submit six projects for consideration.
One would be a quarter-mile long road to connect Rio Mills Road with the forthcoming Berkmar Drive Extended. The county already has received some of funding for this project which could help this project increase its score.
Another would seek several million dollars to build a roundabout at U.S. 250 and Radford Lane in Crozet outside the Blue Ridge Shopping Center.
Another project would build a roundabout at the intersection U.S. 250 and Route 240 to the east of Crozet.
The fourth and fifth Albemarle applications would seek funding for extensions of Berkmar Drive Extended to Lewis and Clark Drive.
County transportation planner Kevin McDermott said this project was split into segments because a portion of the road already has been constructed.
The final application would add additional lanes at the intersection of Route 20 and Proffit Road.
The MPO itself will submit four projects.
One would convert sidewalks on Free Bridge to additional travel lanes as well as build an adjacent pedestrian-only bridge. A second project would build an additional lane from northbound U.S. 29 to Fontaine Avenue in Albemarle County.
Two other MPO projects are reduced versions of projects that did not qualify in the last cycle. A $146 million project to rebuild exit 118 on Interstate 64 ranked near the bottom. Another to upgrade exit 124 also did not qualify.
“We’ve tried to break these down into more manageable portions that will allow us to get some improvements,” Boyles said.
The new submission for exit 124 would convert the interchange into a “divergent diamond,” similar to the one VDOT built at Zion Crossroads.
The MPO also will seek a much smaller amount of money for some improvements at exit 118.
Boyles said the localities or the MPO could decide to remove support for any of the projects in the future.
“If we don’t apply, we won’t get it,” Boyles said.
The MPO also approved a resolution asking the secretary of transportation and the Commonwealth Transportation Board to release $20 million in funding set aside for a second phase of the Route 29 Solutions projects.
The CTB has approved $10 million for preliminary engineering for changes to the intersection of Hydraulic Road and U.S. 29. The MPO resolution asks for that project to be consolidated with another $10 million project for a southern extension of Hillsdale Drive.
VDOT’s six-year improvement program currently shows funding for the projects to not be released until July 2018.
The resolution had the support of one person who spoke during public comment.
“This would allow that much needed planning work to get started sooner,” said Morgan Butler, of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We think it’s a smart move to look at the Hydraulic intersection sooner.”
The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission will oversee the creation of a small area plan for the intersection. Three quadrants are in the city and one is in Albemarle.
“We see that as a great opportunity to look at transportation and land-use as two sides of the same coin,” Butler said.