School crosswalk, pathway projects in Albemarle likely to receive VDOT funding

Albemarle County soon could move forward with two long-awaited projects to make walking and biking to school safer for children.
For several years, Albemarle has sought funding to add a pedestrian crosswalk at Cale Elementary School on Avon Street Extended and a shared-use pathway to connect Greer Elementary and Jack Jouett Middle schools to Hydraulic Road and the Albemarle High School campus. 
In April, both projects were included in the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s tentative list of Transportation Alternatives projects for 2019-2020.
“That bodes pretty well for those projects,” said Kevin McDermott, the county’s transportation planner. “Albemarle is really excited that we have this opportunity to work with the state and to get this federal money to improve the safety and walkability of these schools.”
Transportation Alternatives is a federal program that sets aside transportation funds for small-scale projects to facilitate pedestrian activity and cycling. It supports the Safe Routes to School program in Virginia and other states.
At present, the crosswalk nearest to Cale Elementary is at the intersection of Avon Street Extended and Mill Creek Drive, about a quarter-mile from the school. Students often cross Avon Street Extended closer to the school, where there are no signals to alert cars of pedestrians. 
“It’s become a safety concern in the community,” McDermott said. “The school has been doing a lot to encourage kids to walk and bike to school. This was a safety concern related to all that.”
A concept plan for the Cale project shows a crosswalk and a pedestrian warning light on Avon and a new sidewalk leading to the school bus parking lot. The crosswalk would be accessible by an existing asphalt path and sidewalk on opposite sides of the street.
The Cale crosswalk project would be funded with $309,000 from the Commonwealth Transportation Board, matched with $125,000 from the 5th & Avon Community Advisory Council’s Neighborhood Improvements Funding Initiative budget and $77,000 from funds in the county’s Capital Improvement Program dedicated to “leveraging the state’s transportation revenue sharing program” with matching funds.
“Any time we can get people out of their cars to get kids to school and can encourage walking or biking, it’s a good thing for our community,” said David Storm, co-chairman of the 5th & Avon Community Advisory Council.
The Neighborhood Improvements Funding Initiative was a one-time distribution of $1.4 million to the county’s development areas through funds from the county’s budget surplus from fiscal year 2016.
Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan calls for the development of pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods in the county’s growth areas. Pam Riley, planning commissioner for the Scottsville District, said the growth areas will need more crosswalks, sidewalks and other urban amenities to implement this vision as their populations grow. 
“This crosswalk in our neck of the woods is a really important link, and not just for kids and workers going to and from the school,” Riley said. “I expect other people will utilize it at other times of the week.”
The bike and pedestrian path to Greer Elementary and Jouett Middle was identified as an urgent need in 2012 when the schools worked with Albemarle County to draft a Safe Routes to School Travel Plan. 
Construction of the shared-use path would be funded by $412,000 from the CTB’s Transportation Alternatives budget and matched with $195,000 in NIFI funds from the Hydraulic CAC and $103,000 from the county’s Capital Improvement Program.
McDermott said Brownsville Elementary and Henley Middle schools in Crozet could be the focus of Albemarle’s next Safe Routes to School project. 
In March, a Henley student suffered injuries to her leg when a slow-moving car on the road between the two schools struck her.
“That makes us want to evaluate that area and see if there are improvements that could make it a safer environment,” McDermott said.
The CTB’s tentative Transportation Alternatives budget for 2019-2020 also would fully fund two requests from the city of Charlottesville to expand the U.S. 250 Bypass Commuter Trail.
Charlottesville requested $400,000 to build a segment of the trail stretching from Hydraulic Road to the John W. Warner Parkway on the northern side of the highway. The rest of the funding for the $1.1 million trail portion came from a previous grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation. 
The city also requested $300,000 for the design and construction of a bike and pedestrian bridge across Meadow Creek as part of a trail from Hydraulic Road to Brandywine Drive.
VDOT is scheduled to hold a public hearing Monday on its Six-Year Improvement Program for the Culpeper District at 1601 Orange Road in Culpeper. 
The CTB’s tentative list of Transportation Alternatives projects includes $ million for Nelson County and the city of Waynesboro to complete a trail through the Claudius Crozet Blue Ridge Tunnel. Nelson is in VDOT’s Lynchburg District, and Waynesboro is in the Staunton District.