Harrison Rue, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), will leave later this spring to take a position with an as-yet undisclosed company. Rue has been with the area’s regional planning organization for six years.


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He made his announcement at the beginning of the MPO Policy Board’s April meeting, prompting both congratulations and regrets over his departure. His resignation leaves the MPO Policy Board without a leader during this summer’s update of the area’s long-range transportation plan (

UNJAM 2035

) and efforts to create a regional transportation authority.

Rue said he could not disclose his new employer, but said he was recruited by a “large national consulting firm.”  Rue said he regretted leaving while still in the middle of several projects, but was confident that the work would be completed.

Albemarle County Supervisor

Dennis Rooker

(Jack Jouett) praised Rue for pushing the duties and responsibilities of the MPO Policy Board. Supervisor

David Slutzky

(Rio) said it would be hard to replace Rue.

“You would not find somebody who could create the number of important things that you’ve done in your six years,” Slutzky said.

City Councilor

Satyendra Huja

called for a resolution to salute Rue, which will be adopted at the May meeting. Councilor

Julian Taliaferro

was not able to attend the meeting.



CTS Update: 1.7 million riders this year



The director of the Charlottesville Transit Service is projecting a total ridership of just under 1.7 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2008. Bill Watterson said that would represent an increase of 200,000 riders over the previous year if the estimate holds up. Actual ridership since July 1, 2007 is approximately 1.25 million riders, a 12% increase over this time last year.

Watterson attributed the increase to the fare-free exchange program with the University of Virginia, as well as increased headways on the Route 7 bus to Fashion Square Mall.

Watterson also said the real-time bus tracking system has been enacted, and is “still a work in progress.”   His staff is working on ways to expand the system to more platforms, including cell phones and an online interface that uses Google maps.  Another new function will the ability to call an automated phone line that will tell the caller how long until the next bus arrives at a bus stop of their choice.



Will Hillsdale Drive receive raised crosswalks as part of safety improvement project?



Schematic of safety improvements  for Hillsdale Drive project

(


Source: Albemarle County

)


Four years ago, Albemarle County received money from the federal government to enhance Hillsdale Drive by making it safer for people to walk across the street. Many seniors live in condominiums and apartment complexes along the road, and the project is designed to make it easier for them to do so. Part of the design is to create raised crosswalks, which would force drivers to slow down.

While discussing the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan, Slutzky asked the VDOT officials present to clear up some confusion over whether their agency would allow the crosswalks.

“When I talked with Butch [Davies of the Commonwealth Transportation Board], I was under the impression we could actually elevate the crosswalks themselves as a speed deterrent, and I was getting some communication that wasn’t going to happen,” Slutzky said.

VDOT’s Brent Sprinkle said County staff has been told to submit documentation that the raised crosswalks will be safe, given that VDOT guidelines currently don’t allow them. He said VDOT is concerned the safety features could be a liability in the future if they are not properly vetted. Slutzky said he had been told they were absolutely disallowed by VDOT policy without a waiver, and he said he would follow up with County staff.

Rue said he was “embarrassed” that VDOT was putting obstacles in the way of the project.

“There is no reason why VDOT should not be changing its guidelines to not only allow but permit and encourage as a standard raised median crosswalks in any three-lane road in the state,” Rue said. He said another project in Stanardsville is currently being delayed for the same reason.

Sprinkle said VDOT doesn’t prohibit them, but does require them to be installed in appropriate locations. “We’re trying to put them in some cases in places where the traffic volume and the speeds are too high to safely install that type of traffic calming device, but if we can show  usage where it’s been done before, that may help us modify our guidelines,” Sprinkle said.

Later in the meeting, Albemarle County Chief Planner David Benish joined the meeting, and said the possibility of applying for a waiver will be discussed at a scoping meeting on April 17. Quentin Elliot, the acting Administrator of the VDOT’s Culpeper District, warned against applying for a waiver without providing any evidence to show the raised crosswalks can be installed safely.

County staff will also decide at that meeting whether the project can go to advertisement in July as planned. The project has been split into two phases because of issues getting an easement around the Squire Hill apartment complex.



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Sean Tubbs

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