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At least 12 transportation project applications to be submitted for Smart Scale | local government

Safety improvements on Fifth Street in Charlottesville, changes to the intersection of Rio Road and Belvedere Boulevard, and adjustments to US 250 in eastern Albemarle County are among several local road projects that officials hope to receive state funding.

Area governments and organizations plan to submit at least a dozen transportation projects in Charlottesville and Albemarle County for the next round of a major state transportation funding program.

The city and county are joined by the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Thomas Jefferson District Planning Commission in being able to submit a maximum of four nominations each to the state’s Smart Scale process.

Over the past four cycles, which take place every two years, the region has been relatively successful in receiving Smart Scale funding with 25 projects funded in Albemarle and Charlottesville.

The state assigns submitted projects a benefit score based on safety, congestion relief, accessibility, land use, economic development, and environmental quality, which is then divided by the overall amount of funding requested.

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“It’s competitive. It’s important to remember that while we hope our region will be successful in receiving project funds, we are in some ways competing with each other for resources,” said Sandy Shackelford, Director of Planning and transport of the TJPDC.

Pre-applications for proposed projects are due April 1 and final submissions are due August 1. Funded projects are incorporated into the state’s six-year improvement program.

Charlottesville plans to submit a design for Fifth Street from the Cherry Avenue/Elliott Avenue intersection to Harris Road. Seven people have been killed in crashes on this stretch of road in the past six years, and the city council recently voted to lower the speed limit to 40 miles per hour.

“We have a consultant on board to detail what this project will look like,” said city traffic engineer Brennen Duncan. “There will be future public meetings coming up, probably in April, for public comment on exactly what this project will be before we make our final submission in August.”

Cost estimates are not yet known for the project, which will be the city’s only bid in this round.

“We’ve gained a lot over the last few rounds of Smart Scale, so we just need to design them and start building before we have the staff to take on more projects,” Duncan said.

Albemarle plans to submit four designs, including one for a Green-T intersection at Belvedere Boulevard and Rio Road. The intersection is an alternative design that keeps through traffic flowing and separates turning vehicles. It is one of the recommended projects in a Rio Road Corridor Study.

If it were to be built, drivers wanting to turn left from Belvedere Boulevard onto Rio Road would watch for oncoming traffic from the left and use a channelized lane to join Rio after passing through the intersection.

The estimated cost is $2.7 million. The localities can contribute to the financing of the projects.

Two additional submissions planned for the county are for shared-use pathways – one on part of the west side of Avon Street Extended, with an Avon Street crosswalk near the Lakeside Apartments, and another on the west side of Fifth Street / Old Lynchburg Road. An initial cost estimate for the Fifth Street project is $9.2 million, and the Avon Street Extended project is estimated at $1.2 million.

Albemarle planning manager Kevin McDermott said a roundabout at Old Trail Drive and US 250 in Crozet is the fourth bid, which does not yet have a cost estimate.

Last year, the board selected projects for DFO Charlottesville-Albemarle to submit – an $8.3 million roundabout at the intersection of Waterway and District Avenue near stores in Stonefield; a bicycle and pedestrian crossing of the Rivanna River near Riverview Park which will cost approximately $11.3 million or $15.3 million; multimodal improvements along Avon Street from Avon Court to Druid Avenue; and multimodal improvements along Fifth Street from Harris Road south to the city limits.

The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission plans to submit three projects in the area, including two that were identified through the state’s “Project Pipeline,” which reviews needs across the state.

US 250 at its intersections with Route 22 and Milton Drive has been identified as one of the areas in need of change, and so far potential projects include extending the existing Route 22 merge lane southbound on US 250 and the addition of a traffic light; the addition of a relocated left-turn lane for traffic heading northbound on Route 22; and the addition of a roundabout at Milton Drive.

Chuck Proctor, Culpeper District Planning Officer for the Virginia Department of Transportation, said that since there aren’t as many morning left turns on Route 22, the relocated left-turn lane would give more time to westbound US 250 traffic to cross the intersection.

The second area identified is along US 250 in the Pantops area, which includes a number of roadside changes between Hansen Road and Hansen Mountain Road, including a crosswalk.

“Traffic Engineering had a signal timing plan developed – they just completed and implemented it last year,” Proctor said. “So that addressed the operational concerns we had about the corridor, but we still had some security and pedestrians and [transportation demand management] improvements that we wanted to try to make.

TJPDC staff said road surveys in the project pipeline areas have just been completed and additional public engagement will be part of the process before the projects are completed. Project cost estimates have not yet been finalized.

The TJPDC also plans to submit a project to extend Hillsdale Drive from Hydraulic Road to US 250 and relocate some of the ramps, which did not yet have a cost estimate.

McDermott said the county was also working with VDOT on a possible project at the west intersection of US 250 and Old Ivy Road near Bellair Market, but “we weren’t able to come up with any good ideas on how to approach the issues.”

Comments on projects can be submitted online at campo.tjpdc.org/smart-scale.