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January 27, 2012

Public brings ideas to transportation workshop

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, January 27, 2012

Which transportation projects should Albemarle County and Charlottesville begin planning for now to make it easier for people to travel around the community in the future?

That was the central question asked Thursday at a workshop held by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission as part of its “Many Plans, One Community” initiative.

20120126-workshop

Albemarle County Chief of Planning David Benish helping a member of the public

Nearly 60 people attended the event, which was an opportunity for the TJPDC to receive public input on a new forecasting model that can project how different transportation solutions would affect traffic volumes.

Many roadway segments and intersections in the region are projected to experience gridlock as population increases.

“I think the projections for 2040 are somewhat scary, and I think it’s important that they get out and people realize that this is going to happen,” said city resident John Pfaltz.

Pfaltz said he observed that most of the sharpest increases in traffic would occur within city limits.

“This congestion is on residential streets where people live as opposed to U.S. 29 or [U.S. 250] where almost nobody lives,” Pfaltz said. “I’m very much for getting traffic around the city and not through it.”

Pfaltz said planning for an Eastern Connector and the Southern Parkway would give county motorists more options to get to destinations elsewhere in Albemarle.

City resident Bruce Odell said the model developed by the TJPDC was an important tool that would allow the community to evaluate potential solutions.

“We can run new models that can do a new run on data for new ideas and get a quick printout of likely impacts of an improvement,” Odell said.

County resident Richard Wagaman suggested that the community plan for an eastern bypass that would travel north of the Rivanna Station military base to Red Hill Road, where it begins at Route 20, south of Charlottesville.

“It would be about 25 miles and would go south and east of Monticello,” Wagaman said.

Wagaman said such a road could be constructed through a public-private partnership and paid for through tolls.

County resident and business owner Christopher Lee observed that the model indicated that traffic on existing U.S. 29 business would not increase dramatically because the model assumes the construction of the Meadow Creek Parkway, Hillsdale Drive Extended, Berkmar Drive Extended and the Western Bypass.

“I do note that on a number of the other maps there’s a much greater degradation in level of service,” Lee said. “As the community grows we’re going to need more roads.”

However, many attendees argued that the last thing the community needs is more roads.

“We obviously need more alternatives to the single-occupant automobile because what the modeling is showing us is that’s not going to work,” said former Albemarle Supervisor Sally Thomas.

Stratton Salidis, an opponent of the Meadow Creek Parkway, said the community should focus on travel demand management programs to help people make alternative choices to driving.

“Instead of building a lot more things in general, if we could just get better information coordination and help people share rides, that could go a long way in addition to making it easier for people to walk, bike and take transit,” Salidis said.

Transportation activist Randy Salzman used the workshop to promote the development of a footbridge to connect the city’s Woolen Mill’s neighborhood with Pantops.

“That’s a growth area for employment with State Farm and the new Martha Jefferson Hospital and the only way to get there is via Free Bridge,” Salzman said. “As the employment center expands, there will be huge political pressure to create a new highway bridge.”

Albemarle resident Audrey Wellbourne said she was skeptical that cycling would become a viable commuting alternative until the community begins to emulate other cities that have planned better.

“It’s not a very safe way to do it [here] with the narrow bike lanes,” Wellbourne said. “I’ve done a lot of biking in Bend, Oregon, and the way they do their biking there is just amazing.”

Charlottesville’s newest planning commissioner said she thought the workshop demonstrated that cooperation will be key to solving gridlock.

“We’re going to have to work with the county on that because people drive through municipalities and don’t recognize any boundaries,” said Natasha Sienitsky.

People who did not attend the workshop will have the chance to have their voice heard by an online survey that will be made available at www.tjpdc.org.

 

 

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