As the University of Virginia prepares for graduation weekend, the community is bracing for a new stage of construction projects on U.S. 29 north of Charlottesville.

“It’s a big, big week for the entire Route 29 construction project,” said Chip Boyles, director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

Boyles briefed top Albemarle, Charlottesville and university officials Thursday at the year’s first meeting of the Planning and Coordination Council. The group was created in 1986 to foster cooperation between the three entities.

The joint venture of Lane Construction and Corman Construction is overseeing the grade-separated interchange at Rio Road, the widening of U.S. 29 between Polo Grounds Road and Hollymead Town Center and the construction of Berkmar Drive Extended.

“Their contract is just over $116 million for these three projects,” Boyles said.

Meanwhile, the $17 million so-called Best Buy Ramp project is nearing completion.

“By [Friday] evening, all lanes will be open to traffic,” said Andrew Scott of the Virginia Department of Transportation. “The two lanes going up the ramp onto the U.S. 250 Bypass will be open.”

Scott said there will be some work to perform but the interchange will function as planned.

“The goal was to have that completed before the Rio project stopped east-west traffic at the grade-separated interchange there,” Boyles said.

On Monday, the existing traffic light at Rio Road will be turned off and traffic will be able to flow freely through the intersection.

“You’ll be able to make right turns from Rio onto 29 but you just can’t go straight [across U.S. 29] or make left turns,” Boyles said.

Lane Corman is required to have the intersection open to all lanes of traffic by Sept. 2.

“There is a very good [financial] incentive to have it open by Aug. 2,” Boyle said.

After completion, two lanes in each direction will travel north and south underneath a new Rio Road Bridge. The interchange is being restricted to allow excavation to occur.

“The number of lanes will stay the same but three traffic signals will be removed,” Boyles said.

Scott said construction of the Rio interchange has been underway since June.

“Most of the work has been happening at night, putting in the infrastructure and the foundations for the bridge,” Scott said. “That’s what you drive over when you drive over those metal plates.”

One PACC member said he was surprised that U.S. 29 drivers will be able to roll through the Rio Road intersection beginning Monday.

“That will be a very positive part of this,” said Pat Hogan, chief operating officer at UVa, adding that the second ramp at Best Buy will reduce congestion.

“I think this potentially could be looking like a lot better prospect for the next three months than a lot of people think.”

After completion, vehicle movements in the local lanes from U.S. 29 to Rio Road will be controlled by traffic lights.

Scott said the widening project also is moving forward and traffic lanes will be shifted into the median this summer. The bridge crossing the South Fork of the Rivanna River for Berkmar Drive also is well under construction.

“You can’t see too much now but in a couple months you’ll start to see the piers if you’re driving over the existing U.S. 29 bridge,” Scott said. “That’s ahead of schedule.”

All three projects, as well as Hillsdale Drive Extended, must be completed by the end of October 2017.

The PACC also was briefed on the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission’s efforts to study how to improve communication and logistics between the area’s transit agencies.

“At the direction of PACC, we’ve been working with Charlottesville Area Transit, JAUNT, rural transit program and the University Transit Service,” Boyles said.

“A number of previous studies have occurred over time and nothing really resulted from those,” Boyles said.

One of those studies was to create a Regional Transit Authority. The idea stalled after the General Assembly declined to allow the city and the county to hold a referendum on a sales tax to cover the costs of expanding bus routes.

The goal of this study is to find a way to help the existing services work together.

“We’ve begun that process and what we’re trying to do is find opportunities for cost-sharing, communication and decision-making,” Boyles said.

A report will be made to PACC in November.

The Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro Metropolitan Planning Organization is separately studying whether a regional service between Charlottesville and the Shenandoah Valley would be viable.

“We know there are a large number of employees who live there and commute into Charlottesville,” Boyles said.

Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer reminded the PACC that transportation is one area where the City Council and the Board of Supervisors have identified for enhanced cooperation.

Supervisor Diantha McKeel pointed to pending CAT route changes as one example of a communication gap. The bus service is altering routes that serve Albemarle County to accommodate the construction on U.S. 29.

“It would have been great had we been informed and had an opportunity to receive the release or know about it in advance,” McKeel said.