Review process continues for next round of Smart Scale candidate projects 

Efforts are underway to secure funding to transform the character of Fifth Street and Fifth Street Extended between Ridge Street and Ambrose Commons. There are at least three projects being considered for the next round of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale process. 

“Smart Scale is the process that the state uses to prioritize and fund transportation projects,” said Sandy Shackelford, the director of planning and transportation for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. 

The deadline for the fifth round is approaching later this spring. Each locality can submit up to four projects, and regional planning bodies also get four. 

“Projects are evaluated and given a benefit score based on how well the project meets needs in areas like safety, congestion relief, and economic development,” Shackleford said.

Project pre-applications need to be submitted by March 31 with a final application is August 1. The results will be presented to the Commonwealth Transportation Board next January. Funding is limited. The TJPDC held a workshop on February 28 to present candidates to the public. (watch the workshop)

Charlottesville will only submit one application this year. That will be for safety improvements on Fifth Street Extended that could be coordinated with a previous Smart Scale project. (read that application)

“We do currently have a funded project at the intersection of Cherry [Avenue] and Elliott [Avenue] so we are looking to kind of connect to that already-funded project and continue south,” said Brennen Duncan, the city’s traffic engineer. 

How far south depends on how much funding would be available. Earlier this year, the City Council dropped the speed limit on 5th Street Extended to 40 miles per hour to try to slow down traffic after a series of fatalities in 2020. 

“We’re primarily focused on safety, congestion, pedestrian access, and bicycle access,” Duncan said. 

Duncan said public meetings will be held in April to shape this project and there is no current cost estimate. There are other previously awarded Smart Scale projects along the corridor. 

Further to the south, the Metropolitan Planning Organization will submit an application to make improvements for a four-tenths of a mile long stretch where Albemarle County is on one side of the road and Charlottesville is on the other. (read details)

“The Fifth Street improvements include adding a left turn lane south into Fifth Street Station Parkway, median adjustments into the Willoughby Shopping Center across from the Willoughby residential neighborhood, construction of a left-turn midblock into Willoughby Shopping Center, [and] traveling north, restricting south turn lane into the Willoughby Shopping Center,” said Ryan Mickles, a regional planner with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. 

A shared-use path is also suggested in this project as are other elements. There’s no cost estimate yet for this project. 

Another project would see bicycle and pedestrian improvements between Ambrose Commons to Stagecoach Road south of I-64. These would provide a way to get to Southwood on foot or bike while passing by the Albemarle Business Campus and Albemarle County’s southern office building. (read those details)

“We’re going to basically install a shared-use path on the west side of the road offset by a six foot buffer strip,” said Chuck Proctor, a transportation planner with VDOT. 

In the fourth Smart Scale round, Albemarle County won $5.263 million in funding for a roundabout at the intersection of Old Lynchburg Road and Fifth Street. The Board of Supervisors committed a $2 million match to the project to help improve its ranking under Smart Scale. 

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 March 4, 2022 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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