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May 08, 2012

New Dominion electrical substation gets approval from city planners

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A plan by Dominion Virginia Power to increase the reliability of Charlottesville’s electric grid took one step forward Tuesday as the city Planning Commission voiced approval.
 
3D-sub1
Design Development LLC was hired to create a model that shows how the substation would fit on the existing site 
Dominion required a special use permit in order to build what is known as a “backbone structure” at the back of its Charlottesville headquarters on Hydraulic Road.
 
“Electric substation facilities act as a conduit between high voltage lines and [the] lower voltage lines that which serve homes and businesses,” said Jonathon W. Schulitis, a site specialist with Dominion.
 
“What a substation does is provide an off ramp from the interstate of the electrical transmission system,” Schulitis added. “The substation will take power from that system and break it down to the distribution voltage. The more access you have provides for more [reliability].”
 
The permit is required because the structure will be 15 feet taller than that the 80 feet currently allowed in highway corridor zoning. However, there are existing utility poles that are already higher than that.
 
Staff recommended approval of the permit because the station is located along an existing transmission corridor and will increase the reliability of electricity in the area.
 
“The proposed substation will support the commercial growth the highway corridor is intended to facilitate,” said city planner Michael Smith. “In order for Charlottesville to continue promoting land use policies encouraging dense, urban development, the city must have adequate infrastructure.”

Continue reading "New Dominion electrical substation gets approval from city planners" »

July 12, 2011

See 3D renderings of the proposed 29 Western Bypass as viewed within Google Earth

By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 12, 2011

10-20110712-29Bypass-Render Charlottesville Tomorrow has spent the past month providing our readers in-depth information and exclusive audio of the debate over the 29 Western Bypass project.  Now, we have dusted off VDOT's 1997 plans and created 3D visualizations that allow you to see how this proposed road would impact the character of your commute, of your neighborhood, and of our community.

In June we shared an overlay of the Western Bypass map usable within Google Earth.  That was useful for showing you WHERE the road was located, but not WHAT it would look like when built in real terrain.

Today we are pleased to share our first 3D visualizations of the Western Bypass.  We think these images bring a lot of the details into focus like never before.

In our Western Bypass information center, you can view a slideshow of 24 different perspectives of the project, download an image you like, or grab one Adobe PDF with everything for easy viewing on your own computer.

You can also review our brief  summary of the current status of the Western Bypass in regards to costs, design, efficacy, and the public process.  We even have a comprehensive and interactive timeline that will give you a great refresher on this project's long history.

View Charlottesville Tomorrow's 3D visualizations of the Western Bypass
(View individual images in Flickr or download a complete PDF, 15.2 MB)

View all our Western Bypass stories and resources.

 

June 20, 2011

State and local officials disagree over next steps in bypass discussion

By Sean Tubbs & Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, June 20, 2011

Bypass-image  If you have downloaded Google Earth, you can use this overlay map compiled by Charlottesville Tomorrow to fly the bypass route detailed in VDOT's 2003 supplemental environmental impact statement

VDOT’s regional administrator and the director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission disagree on the number of public hearings that will be required before the Metropolitan Planning Organization can vote to change its policy on the Western Bypass of U.S. 29.

“A single public hearing, to be held on July 14, 2011, is all that will be required for the [MPO Policy] Board to decide if they want to add this project to the plans,” wrote James S. Utterback Friday in an e-mail to TJPDC executive director Stephen W. Williams.   Utterback is administrator of VDOT’s Culpeper District and a voting member of the MPO.

However, in the emails obtained by Charlottesville Tomorrow, Williams informs Utterback he will proceed as if two public hearings are required.

“I hope you understand it is my responsibility as MPO Executive Director to protect the MPO's interests,” Williams wrote in response.

Two planning documents must be changed before federal funding can be allocated to the project, which is estimated to cost between $260 million and $300 million.

The MPO’s long-range transportation plan, known as the United Jefferson Area Mobility Plan (UNJAM), was last updated in May 2009. Initial work to update the plan is being conducted as part of the Livable Communities project being managed by the TJPDC. A full update is expected to be complete by the spring of 2014.

Another document, the MPO’s transportation improvement program (TIP), must also be amended to remove language that blocks funding for construction from being allocated to the project.

Late in a meeting on June 8, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors voted 4-2 to direct its MPO representatives to remove the language opposing the bypass.  The vote, which reversed an almost 15-year old policy position of opposition to the bypass, was not on the meeting agenda and the two supervisors that voted against the change said they were not informed in advance the item would be brought up by the other members. 

A week earlier, the board had deadlocked 3-3 on a similar motion.  However Supervisor Lindsay Dorrier changed his vote after receiving a phone call from Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton who promised to find funding for the old Western Bypass proposal if it gained the MPO’s support.  Supervisors Ann H. Mallek and Dennis S. Rooker voted against the change.

The MPO’s public participation plan states that two public hearings must be held before the plan and the TIP can be updated. However, it only requires at least one public hearing to be held in the case of an amendment of either planning document.

Williams said he believes that both planning documents need to be updated, not amended, because of the scope of the Western Bypass.  He has requested that the board proceed with updates, which would allow for public hearings on July 14 and July 27 with action to be taken at the latter meeting.

Utterback said he thought a public hearing and action could be taken as early as July 14.

“The decision to treat these additions as plan updates as opposed to amendments seems excessive in light of the fact that only one project is being added to the documents,” wrote Utterback.

Williams responded by telling Utterback he is going to proceed as if the addition of the bypass is an update, and not an amendment, though he would take input from MPO members until later this week before setting the next meeting agenda.

“In my opinion there is ample justification for treating it as an update due to the fact that it is a very complex project with extensive impacts, and will represent a reversal of previous policy," Williams wrote in a response.

Utterback said in an interview Monday that he would accept Williams’ direction if it had the support of Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas.

“[Williams] is the director and if he and the chairman are on the same page than it's fine,” Utterback said.

Thomas was unavailable Monday for comment.


2035-unjam-clip
A chart from UNJAM 2035 which indicates the amount of funding expected to be received by the MPO between 2009 and 2035.(Click to enlarge)

Federal law also requires that the long-range plan be constrained, which means it can only include projects which have a reasonable chance of being paid for before within the timeline of the plan.

Last Wednesday, the Commonwealth Transportation Board adopted a six year improvement program that does not include any additional funding for the western bypass. Their next meeting is not until July 20.

“Our interpretation is that before the MPO is able to take the vote on the long range transportation plan and TIP amendments on July 27, we must have evidence from VDOT that provides a reasonable assurance of project funding,” Williams said in an interview.

Charlottesville City Council members will be asked to give direction to its MPO members on how to vote at tonight’s City Council meeting. Councilors Satyendra Huja and Kristin Szakos are the city’s representatives.

City staff did not recommend which way Councilors should vote, but Neighborhood Development Services director Jim Tolbert did request in his staff report that the city condition its support for the Western Bypass on receiving funding for other projects.

“If Council desires to express its support for the Western Bypass, staff believes that Council should request the Secretary of Transportation to also provide funding to complete two of the City’s highest priority projects, extension of the Hillsdale Drive Connector and the replacement of the Belmont Bridge, immediately,” Tolbert wrote.





June 03, 2011

See the community in 3D: The Claudius Place project in Crozet, VA

Hyperlocal community news in 3D

Charlottesville Tomorrow is pleased to share 3D visualizations of the
proposed Claudius Place project in Crozet, VA.

Claudius Place is a two-story 6,067 sq. ft. commercial project in downtown Crozet currently under review by Albemarle County.

  • First floor is 1,967 sq. ft. featuring a State Farm Insurance office in one of the 2 suites
  • Second floor is 4,100 sq. ft. intended for retail and restaurant
  • Location is across the street from the site of the future Crozet Library
  • The Piedmont Development Group plans to acquire the property in June 2011 from Barnes Lumber.  Ground breaking is expected by the end of 2011 with project completion by Summer 2012.

Public input opportunities:

  •  Albemarle Co. Architectural Review Board - Mon., June 6, 2011, 1PM

Why model this building in 3D?

A goal of our Cville3D initiative is to help our readers and decision makers see the community and proposed development projects in a whole new way. Taking the publicly available drawings, we can render a project in a three-dimensional real-world environment. Presto! You get more information to make an informed decision.

Funding for the Cville3D initiative has been provided by generous support of the Virginia Environmental Endowment and the Oakwood Foundation. The models are created by Bob Pineo, an independent local architect working under contract for Charlottesville Tomorrow. The final product is our best approximation of what this project will look like based on the material submitted to local government.

This is a prototype. Please add your comments below and tell us what we should model next.

Starting with the siteplan...

20110513-claudius1

and the elevations...


  20110513-claudius2

then using  Google Sketchup and Google Earth, we create the 3D perspective seen in this Flickr slideshow


 

The model can also be downloaded and manipulated in Google Earth. 

Click here to access the model for download in your own copy of Google Earth to

select your own views and perspectives with real terrain - What will it look like from my backyard?

March 21, 2011

See the community in 3D: The earthen dam for the Ragged Mountain Reservoir


Hyperlocal community news in 3D

Charlottesville Tomorrow is pleased to share 3D visualizations of the
earthen dam being designed for the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.

The existing Upper and Lower Ragged Mountain Dams will be taken out of service with the construction of a new earthen dam built downstream during 2012-2013. The first phase of the earthen dam will raise the existing reservoir pool by 30 feet and an oversized foundation will support a future 12-foot increase if conditions indicate additional water supply is needed. Learn more about the community water supply plan.

Background

A goal of our Cville3D initiative is to help our readers and decision makers see the community and proposed infrastructure projects in a whole new way. Taking the publicly available drawings, we can render a project in a three-dimensional real-world environment. Presto! You get more information to make an informed decision.

Funding for the Cville3D initiative has been provided by generous support of the Virginia Environmental Endowment and the Oakwood Foundation. The models are created by Bob Pineo, an independent local architect working under contract for Charlottesville Tomorrow. The final product is our best approximation of what this project will look like based on the material submitted to local government.

Using  Google Sketchup and Google Earth, we create the 3D perspective of the earthen dam design as seen in this Flickr slideshow


View other 3D models and learn more about the Cville3D initiative

 

March 11, 2011

See the community in 3D: The Re-Store'N Station project in Crozet, VA

Hyperlocal community news in 3D

Charlottesville Tomorrow is pleased to share 3D visualizations of the
proposed Re-Store'N Station in Crozet, VA.

The Re-Store'N Station is a project currently under review by Albemarle County.  It is a convenience store with gas pumps and office space located on property zoned Highway Commercial on Route 250 West in Crozet.

Public input opportunities:

  • Albemarle Co. Planning Commission - Tues., March 15, 2011, 6PM [agenda]
  •  Albemarle Co. Architectural Review Board - Mon., March 21, 2011, 1PM

Background

A goal of our Cville3D initiative is to help our readers and decision makers see the community and proposed development projects in a whole new way. Taking the publicly available drawings, we can render a project in a three-dimensional real-world environment. Presto! You get more information to make an informed decision.

Funding for the Cville3D initiative has been provided by generous support of the Virginia Environmental Endowment and the Oakwood Foundation. The models are created by Bob Pineo, an independent local architect working under contract for Charlottesville Tomorrow. The final product is our best approximation of what this project will look like based on the material submitted to local government.

This is a prototype. Please add your comments below and tell us what we should model next.

Starting with the siteplan...

00-Re-Store'N-Station - 20110315-siteplan

and the elevations...

00-Re-Store'N-Station - 20110315-elevation

 

then using  Google Sketchup and Google Earth, we create the 3D perspective seen in this Flickr slideshow


 

The model can also be downloaded and manipulated in Google Earth. 

Click here to access the model for download in your own copy of Google Earth to

  • See the model without landscaping - What will it look like before landscape is mature?
  • Select your own views and perspectives with real terrain - What will it look like from my backyard?

May 21, 2010

Earthen dam proposed for water plan

DailyProgress By Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, May 21, 2010

More than a year and a half after consultant Gannett Fleming was dismissed from work on the design of a new dam for the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority has unveiled a new approach that is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars less.

Schnabel Engineering, based in Glen Allen, has recommended that the RWSA build a massive earthen dam just downstream from the Lower Ragged Mountain dam. The new dam would raise the water level by 45 feet, allowing for storage of more than three times the amount of water held in the reservoir today.

RWSA Executive Director Thomas L. Frederick Jr. said the new dam would cost between $28.5 million and $36.6 million, which includes final design and engineering work, an environmental mitigation plan, and protection of the Interstate 64 embankment the larger reservoir would reach.

20100521-earthen-dam“When we hired Schnabel we were persistent in pushing for attaining the goals of the community, which is a fine line balance between a very safe and secure dam that provides that long-term water supply, and one at the best cost we can get,” Frederick said. “I think Schnabel has been successful at getting us there, and I commend their performance.”

Chris Webster, Schnabel’s Charlottesville project administrator, said construction costs for the major components of the dam are about $22.5 million. The RWSA says that is about $50 million cheaper than the last construction estimate by Gannett Fleming.

“We have given a range for the construction costs of about $20 [million] to $27 million,” Webster said. “The final design phase and engineering during construction would cost an additional $3.7 to $4 million.”

“We believe this is a conservative estimate and it is very possible the construction costs will come out at the low end of the range, or possibly even below that,” he said.

20100521-dam-costs-table One part of the plan

The new dam is one component of the 50-year community water supply plan that would serve Charlottesville and the urban areas of Albemarle County. Additional water storage capacity is needed to accommodate population growth and prepare for future droughts.

The 2006 plan called for a new, taller dam at Ragged Mountain and a new pipeline that would transfer water from the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir to fill the expanded reservoir. That plan has come under fire by opponents who favor dredging South Fork and a new study of the community’s long-term water needs.

Dede Smith, a representative of the group Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan, which favors dredging, shared her initial reactions after seeing a copy of the executive summary provided to the RWSA board Thursday.

“I can’t comment on what this means without seeing a more detailed report,” Smith said. “It is difficult to compare this to earlier estimates because it is not detailed enough. … I am concerned about the sheer size of the dam. This is 135 feet tall versus 112 feet tall, so it is 23 feet taller and has a bigger footprint.”

Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris has also advocated for an alternative approach that relies on dredging, increased conservation and a smaller dam at Ragged Mountain.

“Assuming these numbers are accurate, it is strong validation for the decision by the key parties to take a step back from the original plan and recommendations,” Norris said. “I am heartened to hear that, if we do build a new dam, it would not cost nearly as much as we had feared. However, I would like to continue pushing the envelope when it comes to evaluating other options that may save us even more money.”

Design evolution


Download RWSA Executive Summary
DownloadSchnabel Cover Letter
DownloadSchnabel Summary
DownloadDesign - Overall View
DownloadDesign - Dam sections
DownloadDesign - Borrow area detail
When the RWSA questioned Gannett Fleming’s 2008 design for the new Ragged Mountain Dam, and its $70 million-$99 million price tag, Schnabel Engineering was asked to provide a second opinion. At the time, Schnabel said a modified concrete design could be built for about $56.6 million.

With the two divergent proposals, Frederick convened in 2009 an independent panel of dam experts to determine how best to proceed. With the panel’s feedback, Schnabel replaced Gannett Fleming on the project in September 2009, when it was awarded a $1.3 million contract to redesign the dam.

According to Frederick, the idea for an earthen dam was first suggested by Schnabel. Following a review of that recommendation by the panel of dam experts, the RWSA announced in March that Schnabel would assess the option for an earthen dam after underground borings revealed the presence of much less rock and more soil.


WATCH THIS VIDEO: 3D views of the Ragged Mountain Reservoir earthen dam
Support for these visualizations comes from our generous donors, the Oakwood Foundation, and the Virginia Environmental Endowment.

Schnabel’s proposal has three major elements: the earthen dam; an inlet/outlet tower and tunnel through rock that houses the pipeline and spillway drain; and an emergency spillway carved out of nearby rock and designed to handle a 500-year flood event. The earthen dam is more cost effective because it relies on material available on site.

“Based on our calculations, we determined there is a need for 850,000 cubic yards of soil to construct the earthen dam,” Webster said. “There is at least 1 million cubic yards of material available on site.”

Other studies

Charlottesville officials have said in previous meetings that no decision would be made about the dam construction until the city gathers additional information on the costs of dredging, the feasibility and costs of building on top of the existing 1908 dam, and a validation of the water demand analysis that was the basis for the 2006 plan.

“This [report on the dam] is the first piece of info we were waiting for,” Smith said. “It will be difficult to assess what the feasible options will be until we get the results from all the other studies.”

The city is selecting its own engineering firm to investigate whether the 1908 Ragged Mountain Dam can be repaired or raised by 13 feet instead of building a new dam. Five companies responded to a recent request for proposals.

“We’re in the final negotiations phase with our selected firm, and hope to finish that in the next day and so,” said Judy Mueller, the city’s public works director. She said she hopes to reveal the firm’s name and the cost estimate for the study next week.

20100601-get-involved Gary O’Connell, Charlottesville’s former city manager, is the new head of the Albemarle County Service Authority, which provides public water and sewer to county residents. After reviewing the report, he suggested the timing was good for another joint meeting of the RWSA and ACSA boards, along with the City Council and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.

“Hopefully by the end of June we will have a lot of these questions addressed,” O’Connell said. “It seems like it would be a good opportunity to have the four boards come together and discuss the next steps.”

“I am encouraged by the [dam report],” O’Connell said. “We made the right decision to stop on the concrete dam approach and rethink it completely and have come back with a more cost effective approach that puts us back in the ball park of the original cost estimates.”

The earthen dam design will be presented to the RWSA board at its meeting Tuesday. A public information session has been scheduled for 6 p.m. June 1 in CitySpace at the Market Street Parking Garage.