In a private survey conducted in late January 2015, Woodbrook residents were clear on one thing. They do not support the development of a grade separated interchange (GSI) at Rio Road and US 29 in Albemarle County.
With 41 residents responding to our survey, over 90% were of the position that the GSI should not be built. Of the remaining 10%, only one person indicated that they would support the project, while two others were in the “don’t know” category. The Woodbrook subdivision is located within half a mile of the site of the proposed project.
The survey was designed for this blog by long time Woodbrook resident Gerry Petencin. “A waste of $84 million that accomplishes nothing, makes a mess of our area, destroys local businesses, and will reduce property values for at least the duration of the project, as prospective home buyers try to avoid the construction mess,” said Mr. Petencin in the opening remarks of our survey.
Neighborhood concerns can be divided into four main areas: Project justification, construction order, the effect on local businesses and the effect on the Woodbrook traffic light.
Several Woodbrook residents who travel the US 29 corridor daily have questioned the need for a GSI at Rio Road at all. Woodbrook resident Susan Reed said, “There is something seriously wrong with spending 84 million dollars on a project that will maybe save a minute or so and won’t significantly change things as there are a lot of other traffic lights on 29.” Woodbrook resident Cheryl Petencin said, “If I have to plan for an extra 3.5 minutes to get to my destination, I think that is a small sacrifice.” From Kathy Welch we heard, “Yes, the intersection is big, and it handles a lot of traffic, but it handles that traffic well.” Lynanne Wilson said, “I agree that Rio IS a big intersection but it functions pretty well at the moment.” Other residents including George Klosko, questioned the utility of building a single GSI, “In order for 29 to flow freely, there must be a series of these overpasses, which means traffic tie ups year after year,” he said.
|Drop pin shows the location of the proposed grade separated interchange (GSI). The Woodbrook subdivision is shown in the upper right. A VDOT simulation of the GSI is here.|
A number of Woodbrook residents suggested that the Berkmar and Hillsdale projects be constructed before the GSI at Rio Road. “Do the Berkmar extension then reevaluate the need for the overpass,” said Denise Benson. Lynanne Wilson said, “We need to be doing the other “smaller” projects first, like Berkmar and Hillsdale.”
In a related concern, some residents of the subdivision believe that the intersection at US 29 and Hydraulic Road should be the county’s first concern. Betty Oswald said, “Why not address the Hydraulic Rd intersection which is a total nightmare and worse than Rio Rd.” David and Anne Russell said, “I feel a real and less costly solution should start at the intersection of Hydraulic Road and Rt 29 south.” From Latifa Kropf, “The traffic problems are farther south between Hydraulic and the entrance to 250.” Lynanne Wilson said, “It is definitely the bottleneck at Hydraulic and the funneling down into the city that is the main problem now.” And finally, “On a random Tuesday at noon in January, I had to sit through 3 lights to be able to turn from Hydraulic to 29.” said Susan Reed.
Residents too have a concern for the local businesses that will be affected by the construction of the GSI. Cristiane França said, “That will disturb the flow of our entire city as well as a fair number of businesses.” From Jenny Mathews we heard, “29 North is a major business highway where businesses have been encouraged to stay and grow. Do we need even more empty storefronts?” Jill Carey said, “What a shame for all the businesses along 29 who will suffer greatly.”
And lastly, there is a significant concern among Woodbrook residents that their own access to US 29 through the traffic lights at US 29 and Woodbrook Drive will be irreparably damaged by the construction of the GSI just half a mile to the south. Jim Riosa said, “What bothers me is the lack of planning/data around the proximate intersections.” Lynanne Wilson said, “We will no doubt have additional problems at our light due to the proposed changes at Rio.” Susan Reed said, “I am also fairly certain that this will back up traffic to the Woodbrook light while the work is being done.” And finally, from Nancy Brewer, “If this goes through, forget about waiting one light [to] turn to get out of Woodbrook. We will become the U-turn center of 29 North.”
(The names of the Woodbrook residents contained in this story and their comments are used with their permission.)