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March 25, 2010

Planners propose commuter bike trail from Rivanna Station military base to downtown Charlottesville

Reader comments (1) DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, March 25, 2010


Area planners are developing plans for a commuter bike trail to connect the heart of Charlottesville with northern Albemarle County, and elements of the proposed route are already under construction.

“The goal is to provide a connection for both bicyclists and pedestrians that would extend all the way from downtown out to the area where the [National Ground Intelligence Center] is,” said Stephen Williams, executive of the director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).

MPO staff are currently working with city and county planners on possible alignments for the trail, which would span between 10 and 15 miles according to MPO planner Sarah Eissler.

The trail would take on many different forms along the way, according to Williams. In some sections, the route would simply consist of bike lanes on existing streets. In other areas, the trail would take the form of a path completely separated from vehicles.

20100324-Williams Steve Williams
Williams said planners will need to make sure they can deliver a continuous trail from one end to the other.

“If you have just a little gap, it cuts down on the usability of the entire thing,” Williams said.

Williams said the project is only in the preliminary planning stages, so it is too early to come up with a cost estimate.

“Once we have the plan in place, it will be built in sections as we’re able to find funding,” Williams said.  He told the MPO Policy Board Wednesday that these types of trails are typically built in segments, such as the portion currently being built in Albemarle.

“The trail is an element of the Meadowcreek Parkway project and is being built now, by the same contractor at the same time the road is being built,” said Lou Hatter, a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

North of the Meadowcreek Parkway, the route might follow a new trail being built as part of the Belvedere development off of Rio Road. From there, Williams said it could run along the South Fork Rivanna River and pass underneath the existing U.S. 29 bridge.

Some sections of the trail will depend on the future of other transportation projects. For instance, Williams said the alignment could follow the proposed extension of Berkmar Drive on the Western side of U.S. Route 29. That project, which would depend on contributions from private developers, is also currently in the conceptual stage.

In the City of Charlottesville, the commuter route would likely follow a proposed extension of the Schenk’s Greenway from the McIntire Recycling Center to Preston Avenue. That project, which is being administered by Albemarle County because it owns the property on which the new segment would be built, could get under way in a couple of years. If the county does not have funding to build it, the city could step in.

“The city has offered to build that section if the county funding dries up since it will effectively serve mostly City residents,” said city trails planner Chris Gensic. 

Williams expects to be able to release a map showing a potential alignment later on this spring. After that, the item will go before the public for review, most likely before the MPO Policy Board.

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