Albemarle Supervisors briefed on future transportation projects

There’s a deadline this year for localities and regional bodies to submit projects to the Virginia Department of Transportation for potential funding. Four rounds of the Smart Scale process have taken place so far, and planners across the Commonwealth are preparing applications for a preliminary deadline this spring.

Jessica Hersh-Ballering is a transportation planner with Albemarle County and she briefed the Board of Supervisors on January 12. (read staff report)

“The top three projects are Avon Street Bicycle and Pedestrian improvements, Fifth Street Extended Bicycle and Pedestrian improvements, and Belvedere-Rio intersection improvements are all projects that we’re considering for smart scale submission as county applications,” Hersh-Ballering said. 

Hersh-Ballering said the applications will draw from corridor studies recently conducted in all three of those areas. Further study is underway for future projects such as at the U.S. 250 West and U.S. 29 interchange as well as Crozet Avenue and U.S. 250 West. 

“We need these studies to wrap up and make their final recommendations so know exactly what infrastructure we would be requesting in each of these applications,” Hersh-Ballering said. 

Some of these projects may be submitted by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission, which can submit four applications as the TJPDC and four applications as the Charlottesville Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). 

Transportation staff will return to the Board of Supervisors later in the spring to get final thoughts from the elected officials.

As Albemarle County reviews its Comprehensive Plan, transportation staff will be working on a multimodal transportation plan that will become one of its chapters. That work is being overseen by planning manager Rachel Falkenstein

“We’re working closely with Rachel Falkenstein’s team to determine our next steps,” Hersh-Ballering said. 

Tomorrow the Board of Supervisors will have a long discussion on transit’s future in Albemarle. Hersh-Ballering previewed the discussion of the Regional Transit Vision. (vision website)

The geographic scope for the Regional Transit Vision covers the entirety of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. Learn more on the project website.

“The vision plan was intended to create a community driven vision for the future of transit in our region,” Hersh-Ballering said. “There’s a need for additional funding and collaboration to meet the community’s expectations for transit.” 

Supervisors will be presented with a request for funding to begin a microtransit pilot project on Pantops and U.S. 29 north. 

“We’ll have someone from the consulting team here with us next week,” Hersh-Ballering said. “He is going to walk us through all of the details of what microtransit is and why they’re recommending it for these two locations.” 

Charlottesville City Council will be briefed on transit today. This morning a technical committee of the MPO Policy Board was told about a governance study that the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is coordinating and are applying to the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation for funding. 

“The study is to establish a formal arrangement to support regional coordination and planning around transit operations,” said Lucinda Shannon, transportation planner with the TJPDC.

Shannon said the Regional Transit Vision is recommending a formal authority with an authority that could bring in additional revenue. If the DRPT awards the funds, the 18-month study wouldn’t begin until the new fiscal year. The consultants are AECOM, JWA and EPR.

“They’re looking at the model that Richmond is taking on with their new transit authority so they are suggesting creating some type of a regional authority that would levy a small percentage of sales tax and there is the wholesale gas tax,” Shannon said. 

In 2009, the General Assembly passed legislation allowing creation of an authority but the Republican-controlled legislature did not pass legislation to allow a referendum on a local sales tax increase. 

The MPO Tech Committee adopted a resolution to proceed with the governance study. Charlottesville and Albemarle will be asked to make a local match. 

“We want to make sure you were aware of the study,” said transportation director Sandy Shackleford. 

There is still time to get involved with the Regional Transit Vision as the envisioning process continues. If one survey isn’t enough for you, there’s a second one with a map, too. Finally, only 11 people have watched the YouTube video of a November 18 meeting on the vision. Let’s bump that to 22! (Watch the video)

One reason to plan for transit is to deal with the increasing number of residential units in the area. At the end of the Supervisor’s presentation, planning manager Kevin McDermott listed several developments that are under review. 

  • Old Ivy Residences with 490 units off of Old Ivy Road 
  • Heritage on Rio on Rio Road West with 250 units
  • Southwood Phase 2 
  • North Fork Discovery Park zoning amendment to add up to 1,400 units 
  • Old Dominion Village on Route 240 in Crozet 
  • Willow Glenn in Hollymead seeking to increase residential development 

This was the first time new Supervisor Jim Andrews was briefed on transportation issues. He had this note.

“It would be nice to see some maps once in a while where we look at development projects in the context of these reports on the presentations and different road projects,” Andrews said.

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the January 18, 2021 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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