June 30, 2021: Route 250 reopens to traffic; Planning to extend Old Mills Trail along the Rivanna

Charlottesville Community Engagement

30-06-2021 • 16 min

In today’s Patreon-fueled shout-out: The Rivanna Conservation Alliance is looking for a few good volunteers to help out on Clean Stream Tuesdays, a mile and a half paddle and clean-up to remove trash and debris from popular stretches of the Rivanna River. Trash bags, trash pickers, gloves, and hand sanitizer/wipes will be provided, though volunteers will need to transport themselves to and from the end points. Kayaks for the purpose can be rented from the Rivanna River Company. Visit the Rivanna Conservation Alliance's volunteer page to learn more about upcoming dates.

On today’s show:

* The Pantops CAC hears about development projects and an extension of the Old Mills Trail

* The Metropolitan Planning Organization endorses planning projects

* Virginia’s Constitution turns 50 tomorrow

* Albemarle and Charlottesville launch a Buy Local campaign

We begin today with some transportation news. U.S. 250 in Nelson County between Route 6 and I-64. has reopened to traffic two months after being closed after a rock slide. According to a release, that’s two weeks ahead of schedule. Lou Hatter is a spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Culpeper District.

“We had two contractors who were really focused on getting this work done as quickly as possible,” Hatter said. “The fact that U.S. 250 was not open created real issues particularly for people lived on Route 6, Afton Mountain Road.”

The contractors worked six days a week and removed over 700 dump trucks of material removed from the failed slope.

“It was a steep slope so the work had to be done in stages because they had to go in with equipment and level out an area called a bench that the equipment could work from and then they would reach up above that to remove the loose material.”

Hatter said a series of something called a “soil nail” have been drilled into the rock.

“They’re secured in place with a cement grout and then over top of that is overlaid a chain link material like chain link fencing, a mesh material and that’s secured to the rods,” Hatter said.

Over top of the soil nails is a layer of straw and grass seed intended to grow vegetation quickly. Hatter said the contractors also identified another area where a slope might have failed, and this same process has been applied at that location.

In addition to being the first day of Fiscal Year 2021, July 1 is also the 50th anniversary of Virginia’s current constitution. The 1971 Constitution replaced a version from 1902 which historic records show was created to make it harder for Black Virginians to vote and to enshrine segregation as the law of the land. That constitution imposed a poll tax and literacy requirements to vote. The 1971 Constitution was an attempt to remove those restrictions following federal bans as well as passage of the Civil Rights Act. Copies of all four of Virginia’s Constitutions are on view at the Library of Virginia through Thursday. Learn more about the 1971 Constitution in a press release sent out by the office of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.

Albemarle County and Charlottesville have launched a joint Buy Local campaign to promote small businesses in the area. The economic development offices in both jurisdictions will run the campaign and are looking for businesses that might want to participate in what’s being described “as a multi-channel, multimedia promotional and educational campaign.”

From the release:

“Locally-owned, independent businesses with a brick-and-mortar facility in the City of Charlottesville or Albemarle County interested in being featured in the campaign should contact Jennifer Schmack at jschmack@albemarle.org (for Albemarle-based businesses) and Jason Ness at nessj@charlottesville.gov (for Charlottesville based-businesses).”

Today is the official last day for Rebecca Carter as administrator of Buckingham County, according to the Farmville Herald. Carter moved to the county south of Albemarle in 1986 when her husband was transferred to a job with CSX. Soon after she went to work for Buckingham County as an administrative assistant. In 1994, she became administrator. Carter announced her resignation last December due to her husband’s failing health. Wayne Carter died in April, and Rebecca Carter told the Farmville Herald she plans to spend her retirement helping with the family farm.

There’s an effort underway in Albemarle County to extend the Old Mills Trail along the Rivanna south of Pantops. That was one piece of information told to the Pantops Community Advisory Committee during their briefing on the Urban Rivanna River Corridor Plan, a joint planning effort intended to encourage greater collaboration between Albemarle and Charlottesville along a common border. Tim Padalino is a planner in Albemarle’s parks and recreation department.

“There is an existing section of the Old Mills Trail as I think most viewers and attendees know,” Padalino said. “It’s approximately two and a half miles in length between Darden Towe Park on the upstream section and the I-64 bridges downstream, the current ending of the trail.”

Padalino said the proposed extension would go further downstream to Milton through an area that is currently overgrown and wild. If turned into a trail, people might be able to walk to a spot that is also being planned for a better place to end a journey on the river itself.

“So for example the vision for the Rivanna Greenway and Blueway includes future development of an expanded improved public landing and river access sport at Milton as well as some type of a new trailhead facility at Milton,” Padalino said.

The extension will pass over land owned by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Padalino said a primitive pathway does exist, but it’s not sanctioned. The idea would be to use crushed stone as a trail bed rather than paving the four mile long, six foot wide trail. There’s also no funding yet for the extension.

“It’s not officially maintained and it’s not permanently authorized for public use,” Padalino said. “Some easement acquisitions are still necessary before beginning final project design and funding request and grant applications and everything else that will come in the weeks and months ahead.”

The extension to Milton will pass in some section close to the railroad, which will be owned soon by the Virginia Passenger Rail Authority. It will also pass by the Luckstone quarry.

“And part of the arrangement and agreement between Luckstone and Albemarle County is to make sure that trail users can remain safe while passing through an active quarry,” Padalino said.

Padalino made his comments at the Pantops Community Advisory Committee. That group also got updates on development projects under construction or under review. Senior planner Cameron Langille said contractors hired by the Virginia Department of Transportation continue to work on converting the junction of U.S. 250 and Interstate 64 into a “diverging diamond.”

“As it stands that project is still on track to be completed at the original date of March 2023,” Langille said.

Planners are reviewing a new 1,000 square foot building at the Pantops Shopping Center.

“There’s a flat green grassed area there that they’re going to install some new parking into and then the new building is going to be a drive through car wash,” Langille said.

Across U.S. 250, the façade of the former Battlefield/Malloy Ford has been demolished. Malloy moved to U.S. 29.

“What they’re doing is to try to build the façade back because they’re looking to get some new auto dealerships to go back to that site,” Langille said.

A site plan is nearing approval for The Hampton Inn to be built on State Farm Boulevard. A second hotel The Overlook is still in the review process for a rezoning application.

“The applicant has told us that they want to continue going through reviews with staff until our comments have gotten to a point where the applicant feels comfortable moving forward to a public hearing with the Planning Commission,” Langille said.

Langille said a proposal to build 130 apartment units on South Pantops Drive next to the Overlook Condominiums has been withdrawn. In its place is a new development for 40 townhomes.

Two former fast food franchise buildings in the Pantops Shopping Center have closed in the past year. A Burger King remains vacant while the Hardees has a new tenant.

“Tobey’s Pawn Shop has gone on in and occupied that space,” Langille said. “They just did some work inside of the building but really didn’t change anything else on site.”

The Pantops Community Advisory Committee will next meet in August and will take off the month of July.

Time for another subscriber-supported public service announcement!

The Friends of the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library are having a Warehouse Sale at Albemarle Square Shopping Center (300 Albemarle Square) Friday, July 9 through Sunday, July 11 from 10-6 each day. There will be Fiction, Mysteries, SciFi and Fantasy, Cookbooks, Military, Biographies and YA and Children’s Books There will be a capacity limit of 80 shoppers. Proceeds benefit our regional public library system, JMRL, serving Charlottesville, Albemarle, Greene, Louisa and Nelson.


Finally today, time to go through some of the June 23 meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board. To recap, that’s the federally-mandated body that approves transportation funding. It’s made up of two Charlottesville City Councilors, two Albemarle Supervisors, and the head of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Culpeper District.

The MPO adopted a resolution supporting an effort by the city of Charlottesville to seek additional funding to support the Meadow Creek Trail. Chris Gensic with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department said the city received a Transportation Alternatives grant of $300,000 two years ago for the project, which according to the staff report was for “the design and construction of a bike and pedestrian bridge across Meadow Creek as part of the U.S. 250 Commuter Trail from Hydraulic Road to Brandywine Drive.” That amount included $75,000 in local funding.

However, that amount will not be enough to cover the project.

“After doing some discussions with VDOT and thinking it through, we came up with a plan where A, you can’t just build a bridge that isn’t connected by a full multi-use path,” Genesis said. “There’s paths in that area but they are recreational dirt surface paths. In order to construct the entire project, to get all the funding in at once and hire one contractor and just get it all done, we’ve decided to apply for a second round of funding.”

The request this year is for $500,000 and will require $135,000 in local funding as a match.

A second city department is also making a Transportations Alternative Project grant request to fund the existing Safe Routes to School program for the next two fiscal years. More specifically, the funding would cover the cost of a full-time coordinator.

“That coordinator helps to implement programs in the city schools, things like Bike and Walk to School day events, helmut giveaways, neighborhood bike repair,” said Amanda Poncy, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. “Working with the city school division to better understand how kids are getting to school, and also building a website and social media presence.”

The MPO approved resolutions of support for both, and a third for a planning grant for future of the Amtrak station on West Main Street. Jessica Hersh-Ballering is a transportation planner with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

“This is a small station but it serves a lot of riders,” Hersh-Ballering said. “The size of the station doesn’t currently meet the needs of our numbers of boardings and alightings and with continued investment by the state into rail and passenger rail, it will continue to not meet those needs.”

If funded, the TJPDC would create a master plan for the site. More on all three of those projects as 2021 continues. We’ll also hear more the rest of the year about the candidates for projects for consideration in the next round of VDOT’s Smart Scale process. The deadline isn’t until next year, but pre-selection work is underway. Potential projects for the MPO to consider are:

* A roundabout at the intersection of District Avenue and Hydraulic Road

* An extension of Hillsdale Avenue to the U.S. 250 bypass

* A bike and pedestrian crossing of the Rivanna River

* Multi-modal improvements for Avon Street between Mill Creek and Belmont Bridge

* Multi-modal improvements for 5th Street between Southwood and Harris Road

* A grade-separated interchange, or “flyover” at U.S 250 and U.S. 29

Interested in more information in any of these stories? Take a look at the video. If you have any questions, let me know and I’ll try to help. That’s what I am here to do!

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