VDOT representatives joined Albemarle County Police officers to speak with Woodbrook residents about the US 29 solutions initiative currently under way in the county. The initiative updates a stretch of US 29 from Best Buy in Charlottesville to Towncenter Drive in Albemarle County. The centerpiece of the development is a new grade separated interchange (GSI) at US 29 and Rio Road which is located just a mile south of the Woodbrook subdivision. The entire project is expected to be completed by October 30, 2017. VDOT Public Affairs Manager for the Charlottesville Area Lou Hatter led the discussion. During the presentation questions were taken from Woodbrook residents.
“The purpose of this is to separate local and through traffic,” said VDOT Regional Program Manager for Route29 Solutions Dave Covington referring to the GSI. The design includes a pedestrian crosswalk across both US 29 and Rio Road.
Listen to the entire VDOT/ACPD presentation. (74m) (Slides)
Woodbrook resident Jim Perkins asked for clarification on access to the local businesses located in Albemarle Square. According to Covington, all access to local businesses will be maintained, although the round trip distance for Woodbrook residents will be longer. The work will be done largely at night except from May 23, 2016 to September 2, 2016 said Covington. During that time residents may be required to use alternate routes through this area. “It will be a little bit of an inconvenience, we understand that, but we have compressed it to a very short period of time,” said Covington, “We do advocate the use of Berkmar [Road],” during this time he said. A temporary traffic signal will be installed at the intersection of Berkmar Road and US 29 which will allow access to both north and south bound US 29 lanes during the construction period said Covington.
Woodbrook resident Beth Gould was concerned about the already heavy traffic on Woodbrook Drive between US 29 and Berkmar Road. “The problem with that is the existing signal at Woodbrook and Berkmar,” said Covington. “We are actually in the process of getting ready to start a complete rebuild of that signal,” he added.
Jim Perkins asked if the long delays Woodbrook residents experience while making a left-hand turn from south bound US 29 to Rio Road have been addressed. Joel DeNunzio explained that by bringing left turning traffic over US 29 a lot more “green time” can be provided for left turning vehicles reducing the delay for those vehicles that need to travel east on Rio Road. For vehicles turning right from Rio Road westbound on to US 29 north, a “free flow” right-turn lane will provide an almost continuous green light to prevent vehicles backing up on Rio Road as is presently the case.
“From a planning perspective things don’t always go according to plan,” said Woodbrook resident Skip Langford who was concerned that the best intentions of planners don’t always work out. He asked how VDOT plans to mitigate schedule issues should they arise. According to Covington the initiative uses a “carrot and stick” approach to project management whereby contractors are rewarded if they are early and face penalties if they are late.
Woodbrook resident Sharon Evans wanted to know why the adaptive traffic signal project wasn’t completed before the decision was made to build the GSI. “We know that a system like that is not going to deal with the issue we have here at Rio,” said Covington.
Woodbrook residents who wish to learn more about the US 29 Solutions Project can join the project’s email list. The list includes weekly project updates as well as alternate route advisorys. A online forum is also available to the public.
“The good news for you all is there is one way in and one way out so people are not going to be cutting through your neighborhood to get around this intersection,” said Albemarle County Police Sergeant Miller Stoddard. Regarding emergency response Stoddard doesn’t expect a problem. “There’s not a concern for us for emergency response to be delayed to your homes,” he said. According to Stoddard, should a problem arise, a backup plan is in place that would stage emergency equipment and personnel in strategic locations so as to ensure that response times are not degraded.
Woodbrook resident Audrey Kocher expressed concern over the amount of construction noise at the site, particularly during the evening hours. “We have a book of specifications that determines what the acceptable noise level is,” said VDOT’s Charlottesville Residency Administrator Joel DeNunzio. “We are holding the design-builder to those noise levels that are set by VDOT,” he said.
The Woodbrook community business meeting which was to follow the presentation was cancelled.