Regional and university leaders discuss streetscape projects
As the city of Charlottesville prepares to implement about $30 million of streetscape projects, Albemarle County and University of Virginia officials want to ensure the entire region’s bike and pedestrian infrastructure is improved as a result.
“We probably need to have a session in the next few months where, as we both gather more information, to sit down and at least understand what all these investments are costing,” said Pat Hogan, UVa’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Hogan and other members of the Planning and Coordination Council were briefed Thursday on the streetscape projects.
The Planning and Coordination Council was formed in 1986 to encourage cooperation and communication between the three entities.
In June, the Commonwealth Transportation Board awarded Charlottesville funding for three streetscape projects through the state’s new Smart Scale prioritization process.
The $12.1 million Emmet project would span from Ivy Road to Arlington Boulevard.
“It’s one of the highest traffic volume corridors in the city,” said Alexander Ikefuna, director of the city’s neighborhood development services department. “The project will provide an opportunity for modal shift with improved bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.”
Hogan said he is interested in more information about Emmet Street given that the Board of Visitors was shown concepts this week for how Emmet’s intersection with Ivy Road and University Avenue might be reconfigured.
“We’re studying that vigorously on our side and would like to spend more time at the next PACC meeting on that,” Hogan said. “I think our Board of Visitors will soon be giving us a green light to work with the city and county.”
Hogan said he also wants to work with both communities to expand bike lanes and sidewalks on Ivy Road.
“We’re going to need some help from the city and the county on that,” Hogan said.
Albemarle County is currently planning for an Ivy Road sidewalk between Stillfried Lane and Old Ivy Road. A design public hearing is scheduled for this fall, with construction slated for 2018, according to the county website.
Albemarle Supervisor Diantha McKeel said it is crucial for that project to be on the radar of both city and university planning staff.
“We just want to make sure that as we’re working on ours, we sure don’t want to have any disconnects or to put something in that will later need to be taken out,” McKeel said. “We really ought to be making sure that we’re all on the same page.”
Supervisors also want better regional coordination for an $11.7 million project to add bike lanes and sidewalks on Fontaine Avenue between the city limits and Jefferson Park Avenue.
“The project will explore options proposed in the 2005 Fontaine Avenue study,” Ikefuna said. “One of the things the staff is focusing on with this project is citizen engagement.”
Albemarle officials wanted to know if that would include land in the county to the west of where Fontaine Avenue meets U.S. 29.
“One of the issues here is that it’s a difficult intersection for city and county people to get onto the other side to Reservoir Road and Foxhaven Farm,” said Supervisor Liz Palmer. “I’m wondering if we should be looking at piggy-backing on this in any way to try to get across there.”
Supervisors approved an office park for the UVa Health System in 2011 that would have required a sidewalk on the northern side of Fontaine Avenue, as well as new traffic lights. However, the project is now dormant.
Ikefuna said he would hold discussions with county staff in the future, but that the coverage area for the Fontaine Avenue project stops at the city line.
The other project funded this year through Smart Scale is a $5.6 million project to reconfigure the area around East High Street, Lexington Avenue and Locust Avenue.
A streetscape project submitted by Albemarle did not qualify for funding through Smart Scale.
The deadline for applying for the next Smart Scale cycle is Sept. 30.
The PACC also discussed the city’s forthcoming application to help pay for implementation of a West Main streetscape approved by the City Council earlier this year.
“The overall cost estimate for the project is going to be determined when the engineering firm completes the schematic drawings,” Ikefuna said.
“We’re also looking at possibly phasing the project depending on how much money we can generate,” said City Manager Maurice Jones. “It was estimated at about $27 million before, and we’ve put $10 million into our capital improvement program over five years.”
Ikefuna said that local contribution increases the chances of the West Main project qualifying through the Smart Scale process.
“They’re really looking for skin in the game from localities,” she said.