Albemarle Supervisors endorse Rio Road Corridor Plan

The Albemarle Board of Supervisors has officially endorsed a plan that offers guidance for how future intersection improvements on Rio Road may look in the future. 

“This is a planning level document that establishes a vision for improvements along the corridor with sufficient analysis of the conceptual design to understand whether the proposed concepts can address future and existing conditions and can meet [Virginia Department of Transportation] and other relevant engineering standards,” said David Benish, development process manager for Albemarle County. 

The county hired the civil engineering firm Line + Grade to develop the plans. Supervisors were last briefed on the work last October and the Planning Commission saw the draft in May. The work was split into two sections to reflect two different roadway characters. 

“Phase one is very much an arterial roadway [with] five lanes with a continuous left-hand turn lane in the middle,”  said Dan Hyer with Line + Grade. “Whereas phase two still resembles in many locations the local collector that it is. It’s very much a local road.” 

Hyer said the work involved analyzing crash data such as at the intersection of Hillsdale Drive and Rio Road. Eighty-nine percent of crashes at the location are left-hand turns. As such, recommended changes are to eliminate that movement at Hillsdale, Old Brook and Northfield. 

“The solution that we have recommended basically absolves all left-hand turn movements by replacing the two intersections with a singular dog-bone or bean-shaped roundabout,” Hyer said.  

The concept of the dog-bone or bean-shaped roundabout (Credit: Line + Grade)

Belvedere Drive and Rio Road would be turned into a “Continuous Green-T” intersection and Albemarle has applied for funding. A roundabout is funded at John Warner Parkway and Rio Road and that will soon get under design. 

The second phase of the project is broken into three segments, with the northern one including two planned developments. The Board of Supervisors approved the 328 Rio Point apartment complex last December, and an application has been filed for 43 town homes just to the south in a project called Rio Commons. 

“And we think that if those developments can work with this plan that the corridor can transform in a positive way and that some of the risks that we’ve identified can be mitigated through the build-out of these developments,” Hyer said. 

Supervisor Ned Gallaway of the Rio District was the lone vote against the Rio Point development last December. He said he was concerned about more people in the area.

“As we approve the sidewalks and the access down to the Parkway, we’re only creating more pedestrian activity and that’s going to introduce a vehicular piece which is going to be really dangerous so I think we need to get our heads around that sooner rather than later,” Gallaway said.

Gallaway said his endorsement of the plan did not mean that he supported the specific recommendations involved. He said there is a competing plan to reroute Hillsdale Drive that would take away the need for the bean-shaped roundabout. 

“We know that that intersection is completely problematic and needs a solution but it just may not be the solution that’s in the study so if we vote to approve the study, it doesn’t mean we’re necessarily voting to approve that project,” Gallaway said. 

As for phase two, Gallaway said he would like to see more traffic calming to slow down the speed of traffic, similar to the bump-outs on Park Street in the City of Charlottesville between the U.S. 250 bypass and downtown. 

Gallaway said he was grateful staff was able to work to get the corridor study done. The vote to endorse the plan was unanimous and it will now be considered as part of the update of the Albemarle County Comprehensive Plan, otherwise known as AC44.

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