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May 13, 2011

Supervisors delete eastern connector from road priority list

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, May 13, 2011

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday to remove the proposed Eastern Connector from a list of potential road projects to be considered by the county.

“We went through the process of an Eastern Connector study committee and came to the conclusion that there was no practical way [to build] an Eastern Connector,” said Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110511-BOS-Secondary-Roads

In 2006, the city and county paid $250,000 each to study an alignment for a road that would connect northern U.S. 29 with Pantops in order to relieve traffic congestion. A task force recommended with some hesitation that an alignment through Charlottesville’s Pen Park be further studied. Other alternatives included relocating Proffit Road and widening Polo Grounds Road.

Both the Charlottesville City Council and the Board of Supervisors put a moratorium on further study of the road in the fall of 2008 after determining that no viable route could be agreed to by both communities.

The topic came up during the board’s annual discussion of priorities for secondary road funding. The list is submitted to the Virginia Department of Transportation to coordinate planning between state and local governments.

“The priorities of the VDOT six-year secondary road plan, which is the state’s budget for allocating state funds, is based on the list the county establishes,” said David Benish, the county’s chief of planning.

For the upcoming fiscal year, the county will receive $366,000 in secondary road funding for new construction and paving. In fiscal year 2005, the county received $5.5 million in funding.

“This is a 94 percent reduction in funding over the last six years,” said Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker.

Alt13
A conceptual drawing for the Pen Park alignment, as developed by PBS&J

The Eastern Connector project was 20th on the county’s priority list.

“I think we should take it off [the list] because the cost, compared with allocations, makes it impossible to ever build,” Rooker said. “The least expensive option was something like $80 million, and it would have to come out of secondary road funds.”

To accomplish the goals of the Eastern Connector, Boyd said he would prefer to extend State Farm Boulevard across the Rivanna River into the city.

In March 2008, the Charlottesville City Council indicated they would not support such an option.

However, the council voted last August to keep the Eastern Connecter listed as a city priority.

During Wednesday’s public hearing on Albemarle’s secondary road funding, one county resident asked the county to consider using an existing road to better connect Route 20 with Route 22/231 in northern Albemarle County.

“With the increased shopping and increased jobs at the Hollymead Town Center, and increasing jobs at the [National Ground Intelligence Center] … this concept of east-west travel becomes more important every day,” said Phillip Nelson. “Traffic that moves east and west in the Cismont/Keswick area just means less traffic through Charlottesville and less traffic on U.S. Route 29.”

Boyd was receptive to the idea.

“People living in Cismont or Keswick could come across Turkey Sag Road or come across Stony Point Pass as a route without having to go through town,” Boyd said. “Maybe that’s something our traffic planners ought to give some thought to.”

Several Crozet residents spoke out against the construction of Eastern Avenue, a project to connect U.S. 250 with downtown Crozet. It is called for in the Crozet Master Plan, though it is a low priority.

“I realize the need for some sort of inter-neighborhood connector,” said John Savage. “[But] if that road is built, make it a neighborhood road [with] two lanes, 25 mph speed limit and no truck traffic.”

“This concept is not appropriate at its current location,” said Lori Schweller. She said the Cory Farms neighborhood would be negatively impacted if the road were built.

The top three projects on the secondary road priority list are all either under construction or soon will be. The county’s portion of the Meadow Creek Parkway is more or less complete, and improvements to Jarmans Gap Road and Georgetown Road will go to construction later this year.

The next three priorities are the construction of Hillsdale Drive in the city, a $38 million extension of Berkmar Drive to Hollymead Town Center and the addition of bike lanes and sidewalks to a portion of Proffit Road.

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:

  • 01:00 - Staff report from county planner David Benish
  • 17:00 - Supervisor Ken Boyd asks why eastern connector is still listed as a priority
  • 20:45 - Public hearing comment from John Savage of Crozet
  • 23:30 - Public hearing comment from Doris Deshaw of Crozet
  • 24:10 - Public hearing comment from Phillip Nelson 
  • 27:40 - Public hearing comment from Gary Grant
  • 29:10 - Public hearing comment from Lori Schweller
  • 32:30 - Public hearing comment from Corky Shackleford

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