SECOND IN A SERIES
In the coming years, nearly $9 million in new sidewalks will be constructed on several major roads in Albemarle County.
Although sidewalks in the county often have been built as part of developments, several of these projects are in areas without any recent development or will connect to existing sidewalks to expand pedestrian networks.
“In some cases, where there are places where property has already been developed and there won’t be further development, with neighborhoods that have kind of built up, then the county will look and say, ‘OK, we really should go and put in sidewalks because we want to connect these communities,’” said Trevor Henry, director of the county’s Office of Facilities Development.
According to a capital projects status report from May, plans include sidewalks for East Rio Road, Avon Street Extended and Rockfish Gap Turnpike/U.S. 250 in Crozet. Ivy Road and Old Lynchburg Road also are slated for sidewalk projects, and new sidewalks will be coming to Barracks Road and Hydraulic Road.
These projects are being partially funded through the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Revenue Sharing Program, which provides matching funds to localities for infrastructure improvements.
The chairmen of the Fifth and Avon Community Advisory Committee say they hope to see a crosswalk constructed at Cale Elementary on Avon Street Extended, which is within walking distance of several subdivisions, including Lake Reynovia and Mill Creek.
“There’s no real connection across, no safe way for kids to walk to school,” committee co-chairman Dan Heuchert said.
Rex Linville, the committee’s other co-chairman, said he knows of some people who have even talked about a volunteer crossing guard program. He said the crosswalk fits into a larger conversation about interconnectivity in the urban areas of the county.
“It comes down to, ‘are we going to treat our urban area like an urban area?’” Linville said.
“VDOT indicated they would not accept a midblock crosswalk [for Cale],” said Albemarle’s acting planning director, David Benish. “The state typically does not allow crosswalks like you often see in the city that are not at intersections.”
County roads are state roads and have to follow VDOT standards, Benish said, and VDOT prefers crosswalks at signalized intersections.
“Cale is not at an intersection,” Benish said. “What we did in our CIP project to help address that issue is we added a sidewalk on the east side of Avon Street from Cale to Mill Creek Drive so that would allow someone on the west side to at least be able to walk to that intersection, cross and then come down.”
Although some exceptions to the intersection rule exist — such as a midblock crosswalk on Georgetown Road and the use of pedestrian islands on Hillsdale Drive — Benish said VDOT appears unwilling to make an exception at Cale at this time.
Other improvements on Avon Street include a new sidewalk on the west side of the road extending from Arden Drive to Stoney Creek Drive and a sidewalk on the east side connecting Mill Creek Drive with Swan Lake Drive to the north.
Proposed sidewalks for Avon Street Extended / Source: Albemarle County
East Rio also will be getting new sidewalks.
“Because there is no sidewalk in that area, it’s impossible [for pedestrians] to go safely,” RiverRun neighborhood resident Anne Linden said while describing a segment of East Rio between Pen Park Road and the John W. Warner Parkway.
Linden also said she is concerned about the lack of crosswalks along Rio Road.
“The traffic is moving much too fast through a lot of that area, which makes walking across the road — particularly for elderly people who might not have cars — a real risk,” Linden said.
The county is planning to construct a sidewalk along East Rio from Towne Lane to the intersection of Pen Park Road and Rio. On the opposite side of Rio, the county wants to construct a sidewalk that would run just north of Dunlora Forest Drive to the parkway.
The project also proposes crosswalks on Rio Road at the intersection with Pen Park Road and across Dunlora Drive. The project also might connect a northern portion of Pen Park Road with Fox Crossing.
Farther west, crosswalks will be incorporated into the new Rio-U.S. 29 intersection, including a crossing on the new bridge and a crosswalk on the east side of the interchange that will allow people to walk from Charlottesville Fashion Square mall to Albemarle Square.
Although a crosswalk is not coming to the section of Rio Road near Putt-Putt Fun Center anytime soon, due to VDOT concerns of a midblock crosswalk, Benish said he thinks these improvements will provide a safe alternative for people looking to cross the busy street.
“I think they will continue to take the shortest route, but at least we’ll have provided them — kind of like what we did at Cale — as reasonable alternative as we can give them, so that’s the approach that we’re taking there,” Benish said.
Proposed sidewalks on Rio Road East / Source: Albemarle County
ABOUT THE SERIES
as appearing this week in The Daily Progress
Friday: New sidewalks are planned for Rio, Avon and other area roads.