By

Sean Tubbs



Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Virginia Department of Transportation is holding a design public hearing this evening for a set of projects to improve safety on a 1.7-mile stretch of the Thomas Jefferson Parkway, Route 53, in Albemarle County.

“Route 53 is an incredibly important thoroughfare in the Scottsville District,” said county Supervisor

Christopher Dumler

. “It’s also a road that carries many visitors and tourists to some of our community’s greatest cultural treasures like Monticello and Ash Lawn and Michie Tavern.”



Source: VDOT Brochure for Route 53 safety improvements

VDOT records indicate there were 94 crashes on the stretch of road between 2005 and 2007, including three fatalities. Those high numbers caused the road to be selected for a new VDOT program called “Strategically Targeted Affordable Roadway Solutions,” or STARS.

“This VDOT program was designed to identify and find solutions for high-crash corridors,” said Lou Hatter, spokesman for VDOT’s Culpeper District.

The cost for three proposed improvements is anticipated to be $831,000. The money will come from VDOT’s Highway Safety Improvement Program.

One of the improvements will be to alter the intersection of Route 20 and Route 53 to increase space for turning movements. The other two projects will widen the shoulders at the entrances to both

Monticello

and Kenwood Farm. They will also regrade slopes that lead down from the roadway at those locations.

“[Wider] shoulders will allow vehicle operators more room to maneuver and avoid potential collisions,” Hatter said. “Regrading the side slope will allow for more sight distance for drivers pulling out of entrances. This gives the operators more decision time to make safe choices pulling out into the roadway.”

Hatter said the improvements are not designed to add any capacity to the road, which had an average daily traffic volume of 8,900 vehicles per day in 2010.

Steve Williams, the executive director of the

Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission

, said the segment from Monticello to Route 20 currently operates at a Level of Service of D. He added theTJPDC’s traffic forecasting model shows greater congestion could occur in the future.

“Our 2040 model forecast is for volume of 12,800 from Route 20 to just east of Monticello, resulting in Level of Service F in that segment,” Williams said.

The project has the support of the

Thomas Jefferson Foundation

, which runs Monticello.

“The Foundation looks forward to reviewing the proposed design concepts…and will continue to work with VDOT to identify and mitigate any potential impacts…as VDOT completes their final design,” said Ann H. Taylor, the foundation’s executive vice president.

The public hearing will be held from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at the Stultz Center at

Piedmont Virginia Community College

. Public comment will be taken through February 13, 2012.

VDOT hopes to begin acquiring right-of-way in June and put the project out for bids in February 2013. VDOT hopes to have construction completed by October 2013.

Hatter said that amount of time is necessary to comply with VDOT’s rules.

“When projects require the acquisition of easements or right-of-way acquisition to perform the work and to maintain the improvements, both a public involvement process and a right-of-way negotiation process needs to occur,” Hatter said.

A design public hearing for intersection improvements at the intersection of Route 20 and Route 729 will be held in April.

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