Albemarle Supervisor Brad Sheffield Responds to Woodbrook’s GSI Concerns

As a follow-up to our previous story on the grade-separated interchange (GSI) at US 29 and Rio Road, we asked Rio District Supervisor Brad Sheffield to address some of the issues raised by Woodbrook residents. Supervisor Sheffield addressed our questions in an interview recorded at the County Office Building on February 10, 2015.

I began by asking Supervisor Sheffield about current traffic levels. Many Woodbrook residents believe that traffic congestion has yet to reach the level that justifies the development of the GSI. “[VDOT] also looks at approved and by-right growth, and this is the biggest thing that has been ignored in the conversations about traffic projections that I hope people will understand,” said Sheffield. Referring to development on US 29 North Sheffield said, “There’s a daunting amount of growth that has already been approved; Hollymead is still not built out and there is still hundreds and hundreds of thousands of square feet of commercial space planned.” The biggest of these developments, North Pointe, includes about a million square feet of commercial space and about a thousand homes, adding tens of thousands of cars to US 29, according to Sheffield.

Listen to our full interview with Supervisor Sheffield here. (33m)

“Hydraulic [Road] is a great example of what happens when we wait too long,” said Sheffield, addressing our question of why this intersection isn’t being developed first. “I think when VDOT looked at these projects, and looked at what money they were going to allocate, the 230 million dollars, I think they looked at what they could do what people like to call shovel ready.” Sheffield went on to say that they looked for a project with manageable right-of-way constraints. That the intersection is located partly in Albemarle County and partly in the City of Charlottesville also complicates the issue at Hydraulic Road, Sheffield explained.

I asked Supervisor Sheffield a question that has been on many minds here in Woodbrook, that is, why not build out the Berkmar and Hillsdale extensions before investing in the development of the GSI. “When [VDOT] started to analyze the parallel roads, it was immediately apparent that the Rio intersection was going to be directly impacted,” said Sheffield. The VDOT analysis predicts that traffic flowing north and south on Berkmar and Hillsdale will eventually flow into US 29 at Rio Road, increasing the traffic volume at the intersection and causing it to fail, according to Sheffield.

“We have six business representatives on [the] panel that I participate in every other Thursday,” said Sheffield in response to our question on the effect of the GSI on local businesses. “I believe that the decline of this area commercially is very directly related to the congestion [in this area],” he said. He hopes that local businesses will continue to interact with VDOT to maintain their visibility at this intersection. According to Sheffield, improving the intersection will bring new business to the area. “There is a special use permit site plan that has been submitted recently for a 130 bed hotel to be put at this intersection,” he added.

To address concerns about congestion at the Woodbrook and US 29 traffic light, Sheffield said that during construction a U-turn will be provided near Carter Myers Automotive to allow vehicles to turn around before reaching the Woodbrook light. “South of the [Rio/29] intersection, right at Berkmar drive, there will be a temporary light as well as the ability to make a U-turn,” he said, the idea being that at least some traffic will be routed around the Woodbrook traffic lights during the construction stage of the project. After construction, northbound vehicles trying to reach Goodwill will need to make a U-turn at the Woodbrook lights. Sheffield believes that this will have a “minimal impact” on the intersection. He does concede that following construction, the Woodbrook and US 29 intersection “will be the number one intersection that is going to have to be managed properly.”

Supervisor response, or lack thereof, to Woodbrook concerns is a recurring issue here. According to Sheffield, the Board of Supervisors has seen about 1700 signatures. That’s compared to the 13,000 signatures that Smart29 says it has collected in opposition to the GSI. “If that is the case, we have not been provided any petitions at all that have accumulated to 13,000 signatures,” said Sheffield. “I think we are listening to the public. I held six town hall meetings, two that were specifically advertised for this project,” said Sheffield. “The most common theme that comes up [among constituents] is ‘just get something done’,” he added.

In closing, Sheffield said “I encourage people to reach out to me. Ask me the questions—I will try to get you the answers.”

2 thoughts on “Albemarle Supervisor Brad Sheffield Responds to Woodbrook’s GSI Concerns

  1. I had a nice long visit with Brad on the phone a couple weeks ago. I have no reason to believe he wants anything but good for the community. Being on the BOS can be a thankless job, but they do choose to do so. Anyhow, maybe I can explain where trust and credibility are lost:

    1) This is not some 25 year old thing that everybody knows about. We all know that just isn't true. It's a big, new, $85 Million, highly disruptive project that has not been discussed in any open forum.

    2) When we all did hear about the project it was in "take it or take it" form, we were told "done deal".

    3) Brad did offer a couple relevant meetings, the topic of which was "How can we help you better cope with the mess we are about to create." Who attended those? I think Kathy did, but all we ever heard from her was "It's a done deal".

    4) Relating to the Feb. 11 BOS meeting, when we hear Ken Boyd berated because he thinks Philip Shucet might not me a transportation engineer, and we then see Shucet is in fact a trained English major, is that supposed to encourage credibility toward the BOS?

    5) What big hotel? If the GSI had ever been presented to the community, ever "sold" to the community, maybe we would have learned of hotels and other development.

    6) Past experience. Even if a hotel is planned does that mean it will be built? Anybody else recall the plans we were told up for the Gander-Stellar One development.

    We could all go on, but when credibility is not developed, or blown with half truths and stretches of "facts", it's hard to recover.

  2. I just listened to the entire interview, it's well done, interesting, and informative. (Dan,
    great radio voice and presence there.) So, what is the problem? In a word, trust. We're living in a state where our last governor, a moral majority kinda guy with nice hair, is going to do prison time because he got into bed with a lifelong stock market / business swindler. (And it's never taken more than a 5 minute google search to figure that one out.) VDOT? NOVA is a mess. And we know that VDOT in itself is a "big business" with it's own agenda, that might or might not align with any community's needs. Things like The Tea Party have sown and nurtured the seeds of governmental distrust. And we see examples in our own neighborhood of poor public utilities and rotten road paving that lessen our trust of "the experts". So, who should we trust on the Rio – 29 project? A project of that size, even if VDOT thinks $84M is small, should be discussed and "sold" to the locals. That was not done effectively, if really at all, with Rio-29. I suppose this thing will get rammed through, but that is TBD. It won't ruin our lives in Woodbrook. I'm willing to bet that the delays and lost time that is suffered during construction, if that does happen, won't be "saved back" in the next 15 years of a few avoided red lights. VDOT is in the business of building road things and money talks. Interesting to see how this plays out.

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