When the $30.5-million extension of Hillsdale Drive opens in 2017, the Albemarle Police Department wants a traffic light at its intersection with Greenbrier Drive.
“Hillsdale will become a feeder road for people trying to escape the U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road intersection,” said Lieutenant Mike Wagner at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors this week.
The new stretch of Hillsdale Drive is part of the overall Route 29 Solutions package that is currently under construction. The City of Charlottesville is administering the Hillsdale project with supervision from the Virginia Department of Transportation.
“This is a unique situation in that the city is doing this analysis and this plan, but this is an intersection located in the county,” said Supervisor Brad Sheffield.
A preliminary study conducted by a consultant indicated that traffic volumes at the intersection will not warrant a traffic light until 2038. That would mean that traffic on Hillsdale would flow through the intersection without stopping.
The possibility of no signal has raised the concerns of some who live near the intersection.
“One of my main reasons for choosing [Branchlands] to live in was because I could choose to walk to lots of things,” said Muriel Grimm. “I think the idea of not having some kind of a stop mechanism for the traffic going up and down Hillsdale will really make conditions bad.”
“This area is home to a concentration of seniors and senior services,” said Nancy Hunt of the Branchland Property Owners Association. “VDOT can and should take into account the senior population and the many residents who have mobility and visibility disabilities.”
Joel DeNunzio, resident engineer in VDOT’s Charlottesville office, said more study is required and that no decisions have been made.
“I think [this study] is lacking in a lot of ways and hopefully when we get a revised study, we’re going to have a much better picture of what needs to be out there,” DeNunzio said.
The study, for example, did not examine whether the warrant for a pedestrian signal had been triggered.
“In this case with the elderly population, you can look at a volume of pedestrians that aren’t there today because there’s no way for them to feel like they can get across the road,” DeNunzio added.
Wagner asked supervisors to weigh in on the issue in the name of public safety.
“I believe you will see a higher number of vehicles than this study indicates right now so let’s envision the future today and keep the signal in place,” said Wagner.
Albemarle supervisors agreed to send a letter to the Virginia Department of Transportation insisting that the light be installed. The road has been in development for nearly 10 years and the conceptual plans have always included a signal.
“We need to take a firm position that we still want to see this signal remain,” said Sheffield. “The plans for so many years have dictated it and keeping it is vital to the safety of intersection.”
The Route 29 Solutions package is being facilitated by Philip Shucet, a former commissioner of VDOT. Shucet said on Thursday that a determination will be made in September as more analysis is conducted.
An advertisement for bids to construct the Hillsdale project will be published in December and construction is expected to begin next April.
Other Route 29 projects include a grade-separated interchange at Rio Road and the widening of U.S. 29 between Polo Grounds Road and Hollymead Town Center.