Monthly Archives: August 2021

August 2021 updates from the Regional Transit Partnership

Upcoming changes to Charlottesville Area Transit routes are discussed

Before we get to a quick review of the Regional Transit Authority, two small pieces of Charlottesville Area Transit news. First, the free trolley-style bus that runs between downtown and the University of Virginia will return to traveling down McCormick Road through the heart of UVA Grounds. Second, additional service will be added to Route 9 during peak hours. That route currently travels between the University of Virginia Hospital, the Piedmont Family YMCA, Charlottesville High School, and downtown Charlottesville. CAT Director Garland Williams said the move is being made in the short-term to help with the start of the school year. 

“Because we know there was going to be potentially some high schoolers that were going to use our service, we added additional service during the peak periods of time on Route 9,” Williams told the Regional Transit Partnership on Thursday. 

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Piedmont Housing pitches Park Street projects

Tonight, the Charlottesville Planning Commission will hold a preliminary discussion on two rezoning proposals from Piedmont Housing Alliance to build a variety of affordable housing types. (meeting info)

In one, 50 age-restricted units would be built on undeveloped land at the Park Street Christian Church, and in the other, 95 units would be built on the campus of the Monticello Area Community Action Agency. Both projects have been designed by BRW Architects and engineered by the Timmons Group. There was a community meeting for the two rezonings on August 10. Let’s hear about the Park Street Christian Church first from architect Bruce Wardell.

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HAC members discuss housing plan implementation

Moving ahead now to a week later, when the Charlottesville Housing Advisory Committee met for what chair Phil d’Oronzio said would be a light agenda. The meeting was filled with information, however. Looking ahead to a week from today, outgoing Neighborhood Development Services Director Alex Ikefuna gave an update on the development of the Future Land Use Map and the Comprehensive Plan. 

“There is a work session scheduled with the Planning Commission on the 31st of this month,” Ikefuna said. “Subsequent after that work session there will be a meeting with the Steering Committee, and there may be some more changes based on the feedback from the Planning Commission on the 31st of this month.”

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Places29-Hydraulic group gets updates on area projects

The county’s seven community advisory committees are intended to be monthly forums to help Albemarle staff and elected officials implement the seven areas designated for growth. They’re also places where one can learn information about developments that are underway. County planner Michaela Accardi provided an update on what’s happening at the August 16 meeting of the Places29-Hydraulic Community Advisory Committee. (download the presentation)

“The first project I’ll talk about is the Hydraulic and Georgetown office building,” Accardi said. 

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors granted a rezoning for the project back in 2008 to clear the way for offices. The project was dormant for many years, but a site plan was approved last October and construction on the one-acre site is underway. 

“The applicant is in the process of undergoing utility improvements on the site so you might see some work over there,” Accardi said. 

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Charlottesville to study collective bargaining options

Charlottesville City Council has directed the city manager to pursue an ordinance to allow city employees to pursue entities to allow them to engage in collective bargaining. That’s not been possible until action by the General Assembly last year.  (read the bill)

At the public comment period earlier, bus driver Mary Pettis urged Council to proceed.

“I’ve driven the bus for 35 years in the City of Charlottesville and I’m here to ask you all to allow us to have a union because I feel it will help us,” Pettis said. “Help us get more things that we need. I personally had to move from Charlottesville to Waynesboro because I couldn’t afford to live in Charlottesville. I have three jobs because I don’t make enough money just driving the bus.”

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Albemarle to get funding for two electric school buses

Albemarle County will receive $530,000 from the state government to purchase two electric school buses. The funding comes from an environmental mitigation trust set up when the firm Volkswagen was caught lying about the ability of some of its engines to provide low emissions. Albemarle’s amount is part of a $10.5 million pay-out from the trust fund to replace 83 diesel school buses across Virginia. In all, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality administers over $93 million in the trust. 

“The Trust is the result of settlements resolving allegations that Volkswagen violated the Clean Air Act through the use of emission testing defeat devices designed to cheat on federal emissions tests,” reads a statement on the DEQ site. “Volkswagen sold more than 500,000 excessively polluting vehicles in the U.S. More than 16,000 were sold in Virginia, and produced over 2,000 tons of excess nitrogen oxides (NOx) in violation of federal pollution standards.”

Elsewhere in our area, Augusta County will receive $523,198 for two buses, and Culpeper County will receive $530,000. 

Friedman retiring from PVCC

Frank Friedman will retire as president of Piedmont Virginia Community College when the upcoming academic year ends next May. Friedman has been the president of PVCC since 1999 and is the fifth person to lead the institution since it was established in 1972. 

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as president of PVCC,” Friedman said in a statement. “I have worked with the finest, most dedicated faculty and staff you will find anywhere. I am so proud that in the 23 years I have been president, over 150,000 students have received an accessible, affordable, high-quality education at PVCC.”

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Charlottesville PC reviews Urban Rivanna Corridor Plan

(This article originally appeared in the August 17, 2021 edition of Charlottesville Community Engagement)

The Rivanna River serves as the boundary between eastern Charlottesville and the Pantops area of Albemarle County. To the north is the Pen Park within Charlottesville, and the river meanders south to the Sentara Martha Jefferson complex.  What steps can be taken to connect the waterway to the built environment?

The area has been studied for many years, and the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission has been working on a study intended to unify future planning and implementation efforts. Nick Morrison is a planner with the TJPDC who updated the Charlottesville Planning Commission at their meeting on August 10. (TJPDC page on the plan)

“The goal of this phase of this planning project was to develop a vision and an action plan for that urban section of the corridor,” Morrison said. 

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Belmont Bridge construction details detailed

After several years of planning and study, there is an active construction site for the Belmont Bridge now that the project is fully approved and fully funded. The city held an information session on August 11 and Brian McPeters is with Kimley Horn, the firm that designed and engineered the bridge. The event was referred to as a Pardon Our Dust Meeting. (presentation) (watch the video)

“The project is primarily replacing the existing Belmont Bridge,” McPeters said. “That’s the bridge that carries traffic northbound and southbound over the railroad, over Old Avon, and over Water Street. It does include a secondary pedestrian-style bridge.”

(This article was originally in the August 16, 2021 Charlottesville Community Engagement)

That bridge connects to a new mezzanine to be built in the area leading to the Ting Pavilion, and will make the walkway from the bridge compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

“But it will also build a concrete and steel structure that will be a great gathering place and create a sense of place for folks interacting with the bridge and accessing the Belmont Bridge,” McPeters said. 

Construction of the bridge will take about 31 months from now to complete, according to McPeters, the manager of the city’s urban construction initiative. The informational meeting focused on how the traffic of all types on the roadway will be affected.

“There will be inconvenience and we do ask for your patience and it will be our job to inform you of what that inconvenience will be so you can plan accordingly and possible take an alternate route or be prepared for slight delays,” McPeters said. 

Right now, construction activities have been limited to utility relocation and parking lot construction. When things really get underway, traffic will be moved around to different sections. 

“Generally speaking, during daytime hours, traffic will always have one lane northbound and one lane southbound, and then you’ll have turn lanes at the intersections similar to what you have today,” McPeters said. 

For the full details, take a look at the presentation. 

Some highlights from the project:

  • Five-way intersection at Old Avon/9th/Garret/Levy will be simplified with removal of Old Avon movement, with a section of Old Avon become a pedestrian plaza space 
  • Expansion of the pedestrian passageway from the bridge to the Pavilion area
  • A pedestrian passageway will be built at the Graves Street intersection to replace existing at-grade crosswalk 
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