There have been at least two pedestrian fatalities in the past year along Hydraulic Road and Rio Road in Albemarle County’s urban ring, prompting a discussion among County and state officials about ways to address the problem. At their meeting on June 4, 2008, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors heard a presentation from VDOT traffic engineer Bill Parham on short-term, mid-term and long-term solutions.


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Earlier in the meeting, the Board approved a list of 12 priority locations for crosswalk and sidewalk improvements. After plans are finalized, County staff and VDOT will look for ways to pay for the upgrades.

Parham studied both Rio and Hydraulic roads, and explained that his strategy focuses on fixing signalized intersections, the safest place for pedestrians to cross. Parham’s presentation did not include potential improvements for Route 29, but focused on the collector and arterial roads.




Bill Parham, VDOT Traffic Engineer

“I think that the signalized intersections are kind of sporadically addressed over the years, and I think we need to just first fill in some holes and get things up to standard,” Parham said. Then VDOT would look at ways to help pedestrians at intersections that do not have traffic lights.

Part of the issue lies in high traffic volumes along the roads. Rio Road West, for instance, carried an average daily traffic load of 18,000 vehicles in 2006, with an average speed of 35 miles per hour.  Hydraulic Road, a minor urban arterial, carried between 18,000 and 23,000 a day.

Short-term solutions (within 4 to 10 weeks include using a reflective paint to make crosswalks and bike lanes more visible at night, but Parham said attention would need to be paid to make sure the shinier lines are replaced when roads are repaved.

For a mid-term solution (within 4 to 12 months), a pedestrian signal will be installed at the existing crosswalk of Hydraulic Road and Commonwealth Drive. At Hydraulic Road and Georgetown, there is a pedestrian signal but no crosswalk. Parham said one of the challenges of implementing these solutions is to make sure the pedestrian signal doesn’t have too much of an impact on the amount of vehicular traffic that can travel through the intersection.

Parham had more long-term solutions, including installing pedestrian signals and crosswalks along major intersections along Rio Road East, Rio Road West and Hydraulic. For example, Parham suggested a “full box” at the intersection of Rio Road West and Berkmar Drive. That means a cross-walk across each of the four lanes and in the corners. Parham also proposes adding pedestrian countdown signals at the intersection of Hydraulic Road and Lambs Road/Whitewood Road near Albemarle County High School. Supervisor

Dennis Rooker

(Rio) said he thought that the intersection had the best chance of being accomplished in the next year.





This crosswalk at the intersection of Commonwealth and Hydraulic currently lacks pedestrian signals

(Source: VDOT)


Estimates for each these projects vary according to individual designs. Some installations could utilize existing poles, whereas others would need something new to be constructed. Parham didn’t provide cost estimates as part of his presentation.

Supervisor

Sally Thomas

(Samuel Miller) wanted to know if these upgrades would be coordinated with efforts to make transit more friendly to pedestrians. She said pedestrians looking to use the bus at the Hydraulic and Georgetown have obstacles.

“The bus unloads passengers or gets passengers in somebody’s back yard, but then there’s no way to get across Hydraulic Road safely,” Thomas said. “[The intersection] would be the place  that a safe bus rider would go to in order to get across, but the bus stop is some way down Hydraulic Road.”

Supervisor Rooker said he thought VDOT’s efforts were a good first step towards creating a cultural shift for the County’s urban roads.

“Most of these roads started out as old country roads, and now they have 20,000 vehicles a day going down them and people aren’t used to stopping for pedestrians, not used to being in an urban setting, which they’ve become,” Rooker said.


Board hears updates on other transportation-related issues

Thomas also asked for an update on a traffic light for the intersection of White Gables Road and Route 250 (Ivy Road). The developer of a nearby project had proffered construction of the light, but the time is running out on that proffer. Sumpter said VDOT does not believe the light is necessary, and would advise against the construction of a flashing yellow light.

Chairman

Ken Boyd

(Rivanna) took the opportunity to brief Sumpter and his fellow Supervisors about the Forest Lakes Neighborhood Association’s desire to address the safety of the intersection of Ashwood Boulevard and US Route 29. A teenager was recently killed in a traffic accident at that location, and the neighborhood association wants a community meeting.  The meeting, when it is held, will be open to the public.

Alan Sumpter, Director of VDOT’s Charlottesville Residency, updated the Board on the status of the Advance Mills Bridge. He said the necessary environmental documents will be finalized next week, and he doesn’t expect any further delay. The design public hearing for the new  bridge will be held on July 8 from 5 to 7 PM at the Best Western on US 29 in Greene County. Meanwhile, a bridge along Durrett Ridge Road that is being used as part of the detour will be closed next week for upgrades to make sure the road can withstand the greater traffic volume.

Sean Tubbs

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