Charlottesville Community Engagement
Charlottesville Community Engagement
April 12, 2023: New plans for Fontaine Avenue interchange critiqued for not meeting long-term needs; Council adopts $230.4M budget for FY24
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April 12, 2023: New plans for Fontaine Avenue interchange critiqued for not meeting long-term needs; Council adopts $230.4M budget for FY24

Another installment dedicated to transportation planning
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A perhaps unreliable source of fake holidays tells me that today, April 12, is Hamster Day. It has been over forty years since my last two hamsters escaped from their cage and fled to freedom. I don’t really want to know for sure the fate of Blondie and Dagwood, two creatures whose time with me was brief and memorable. But this is Charlottesville Community Engagement, and our time is also brief and I hope you remember a few things that I’ve put together this time. 

On today’s program:

  • Charlottesville City Council adopts a $230.4 million budget for FY24

  • The federal measurement for inflation increases by a tenth of a percentage point

  • Albemarle Supervisors learn about a series of transportation projects, including a shelving of a plan at Fontaine Road and U.S. 29 / 250

  • The cost to complete the Berkmar Drive extension has risen enough to create a shortfall 

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First shout-out goes to the Rivanna Conservation Alliance

In today’s first Patreon-fueled shout-out, the Rivanna Conservation Alliance wants wildlife and nature photographers to enter their second annual photography contest! They want high-resolution photos related to the Rivanna watershed and the winning entries will be displayed at the 2023 Rivanna Riverfest on May 20. The two categories are 16 and under, and those over the age of 17. You can send in two entries, and the work may be used to supplement Rivanna Conservation Alliance publications. For more information, visit rivannariver.org.

2022 Photo Contest First Place Winner (Youth Category) - Emma Kaufman-Horner

Charlottesville City Council adopts FY24 budget

The Charlottesville City Council adopted their budget Tuesday night just six weeks after it was released to the public. The total amount grew during that time according to Krisy Hammil, the city’s budget and performance director. 

“The City Manager’s proposed budget came to you at $226,239,155,” Hammil said. “Through some continued revenue adjustments last week, we worked through the infamous spreadsheet and Council was able to add some adjustments at just a little two million.”

The total budget for FY2024 is $230,390,146. A full list of the amendments is available here but here are some of the highlights:

  • $186,993 for the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center

  • $40,000 for the Public Housing Association of Residents

  • $126,400 for the Child Health Partnership

  • $225,000 for operational funding for the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program

  • $500,000 for the Pathways program

  • $100,000 for Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority for resident services

  • $850,721 to implement the employee compensation study

  • $200,000 for a violence prevention program to be determined

There are no further explanations in writing for what these additional programs are, but they were discussed at a budget work session on April 6. 

Consumer Price Index increases 0.1 percent in March

The federal measurement generally used to track inflation increased 0.1 percent in March, a smaller increase than the 0.4 percent increase in February. The Consumer Price Index produced by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics increased 5 percent since March 2022. That’s the smallest year to year measurement since May 2021. 

“The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures the change in prices paid by consumers for goods and services,” reads a press release sent out this morning. “The CPI reflects spending patterns for each of two population groups: all urban consumers and urban wage earners and clerical workers.”

The Consumer Price Index covers over 90 percent of the total population of the United States of America.

The increase is driven by a rise in the cost of shelter, airline fares, new vehicles, and household furnishings. 

All major factors that go into the index for energy declined in March, as did the index for used vehicles and medical care. 

A breakdown of the various indexes that make up the Consumer Price Index. Read the press release to learn more.

Albemarle Supervisors briefed on transportation planning including Old Ivy pipeline study

Some in this growing community might say that there’s a need for new road connections or improvements to the existing ones. Transportation planning is one of my favorite topics to cover, and please ask questions in the comments. There’s a learning curve. 

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At their meeting on April 5, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors got an update on several projects. 

Work continues at the Virginia Department of Transportation to finalize a list of new transportation projects that will be funded through the Smart Scale process that’s currently in its fifth round. 

The Commonwealth Transportation Board will get an update at their meeting next week in Bristol and will vote on the final selections at their meeting in June. 

But several items are recommended for funding in the area as I reported in January

“Things may change between now and when the Commonwealth Transportation Board meets and makes their final decisions in June,” said Jessica Hersh-Ballering, a transportation planner with Albemarle.

At any given moment, planning is underway for future candidates for Smart Scale and other VDOT funding sources. In March, Supervisors approved a rezoning for a 525-unit development on Old Ivy Road despite opposition from neighboring residents who are concerned about that level of intensity overwhelming the transportation corridor. 

During that meeting, Supervisors were told about VDOT’s Project Pipeline program as well as VTrans, Virginia’s statewide transportation plan. 

“VDOT’s Project Pipeline program is designed to develop a pipeline of high-priority projects that address identified VTRANS needs and may be considered for implementation through Smart Scale, revenue-sharing, or other funding mechanisms,” Hersh-Ballering said. 

A study of the U.S. 29 / U.S. 250 / Old Ivy Road and Ivy Road is one of two pipeline studies about to begin in Albemarle County. A proposed solution that was unveiled to the public a month or so before the apartment complex was approved is not being pursued at this time. (learn more)

“The proposed triangle-about is on hold until this study is complete,” Hersh-Ballering said. “Ultimately this study will take a more comprehensive look at the whole area to improve operations and access more broadly. It may or may not include the triangle-about in the future.” 

A slide from the presentation on the “triangle-about” shown to the Board of Supervisors in January. (view the study)

The second pipeline study will be for the Barracks Road corridor between Georgetown Road and Emmet Street. 

Other transportation news:

  • Albemarle County is still negotiating the final paperwork with the Federal Highway Administration for a $2 million grant for planning for a shared-use path between the Blue Ridge Tunnel, Crozet, and Charlottesville. Hersh-Ballering said the county hopes to issue a request for proposals for a consultant to work on the plan by the end of the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2024. 

  • A consultant has been hired to do engineering work for a new loop road at the Lambs Lane Campus which will include bike and pedestrian improvements on Hydraulic Road. Funding for this study comes from the Board of Supervisors’ strategic reserve. This is part of the master plan conducted last year.

  • The final cost estimate will soon be ready for full implementation of conversion of Free Bridge Lane to a car-free promenade. I reported on this effort in March. In the meantime, staff is preparing a pilot program for Supervisors to review in the near future. 

  • Planning is underway for a shared use path on Route 20 from Quarry Road to Route 53. Two concepts will be advanced for a stretch of road where a previous Smart Scale application had been developed but later withdrawn. That project would have put pedestrians and cyclists in the median, and the next one could as well according to Hersh-Ballering. Though she added the consultant will also look at the eastern side of the road.

Recently proposed Fontaine Avenue project is critiqued

At the February 2023 closed-door meeting of the Land Use and Environmental Planning Committee, area planning staff were shown VDOT’s latest concept to try to address concerns at the intersection of Fontaine Road and U.S. 29/250. Here’s my story. Here’s the presentation. Now it appears they are backing off. 

“Recently there’s been some concern from stakeholders including [the University of Virginia] that the design of a displaced left-turn wouldn’t meet the long-term needs of a rapidly growing area,” Hersh-Ballering said. “So Albemarle County staff are currently working with fellow stakeholders and VDOT to determine next steps for that project.” 

The concept suggested by VDOT at a closed door meeting in February was to route northbound traffic on U.S. 29 heading to westbound I-64 through the interchange. That concept has since been discarded at a staff level. (download the presentation)

Those long term needs include a Fontaine Research Park that will be the home of a new biotechnology center. The City of Charlottesville is also increasing the building potential on its section of Fontaine in its rezoning rewrite. 

Supervisor Ann Mallek was on the Board of Supervisors on September 8, 2010 when the UVA Foundation was successful in having a zoning approved. That came with proffers. (Board approves expansion for Fontaine Research Park, Charlottesville Tomorrow, September 9, 2010, 

“They proffered substantial financial investments in whatever the lights and stuff to stop the difficulty of people not being able to get out of the exit ramp from the 29 bypass going south and all those circulation things,” Mallek said. 

Those proffers are listed here and include installation of traffic lights. 

“It is really important that we get that money committed to these projects,” Mallek said. “Yes there’s a whole new cast of characters at both the University and her with new staff and everything but they’re bringing a massive new to that with the whole biomedical center that they’re putting up there in top of what is there today.” 

In June, Hersh-Ballering will return to the Board of Supervisors with a newly-reordered priority list as well as a set of recommendations for what to apply for through VDOT’s revenue sharing program for which applications are due later this year. 

Sponsored message: Buy Local 

Charlottesville Community Engagement’s continued existence means that many of you support local information. Want to support some local businesses as well? The Buy Local campaign is in full swing, and both the Albemarle and Charlottesville Offices of Economic Development want people to consider spending locally as they shop throughout the year.

The Buy Local campaign highlights small businesses within Charlottesville and Albemarle County through a multi-channel, multimedia promotional and educational campaign designed to reinforce how important supporting area small businesses is to the local economy. 

Locally-owned, independent businesses with a brick-and-mortar presence in the City or County interested in being featured in the campaign should visit www.showlocallove.org or contact info@showlocallove.org. 

For more information on the Buy Local campaign, visit www.ShowLocalLove.org or follow us on Facebook and Instagram @BuyLocalCvilleAlbemarle or on Twitter @BuyLocalCville.

Cost increases to connect Berkmar Drive Extended to Airport Road 

Earlier in the meeting during a discussion of Albemarle’s Secondary Six Year Plan, Supervisors also learned about another project that will be paid for in part by TeleFee Funds, which are paid by utility companies to the Virginia Department of Transportation for placement of infrastructure in the right of way. 

There’s a plan to connect Berkmar Drive to airport road north of Hollymead Town Center.

“Currently the road goes through at a roundabout at Timberwood Boulevard and stubs out shortly afterward but will connect to Airport Road and Lewis and Clark Drive at another roundabout,” said Alberic Karina-Plun, a planner with Albemarle County. 

A kick-off meeting for the project has taken place, but the cost of the project has risen.

“As design progressed, a shortfall in the funding was identified,” Karina-Plun said. “Staff is currently working with VDOT with how to address that shortfall.” 

The estimate for the project is now $17 million, up from $11 million. It’s still a priority for Supervisor Ned Gallaway who pointed out that the Places29 Master Plan called for the Berkmar Drive Extended. 

“I get it, the prices have increased but we can’t punt,” Gallaway said. “That project has got to get done. The whole parallel nature of running Berkmar up there and we’ve got some big development projects that are going to come out there.”

One of those projects is a rezoning at the University of Virginia Foundation’s North Fork Discovery Park. The foundation paid $6 million to upgrade Lewis and Clark Drive to extend it southward to Airport Road. 

Acting planning director Kevin McDermott said staff is working to identify a solution to connect the pieces together.

“We’re looking to try to figure out how the schedule will work with the funding,” McDermott said. “I hope to be able to be able to keep that on a schedule that keeps it done before 2029.” 

McDermott said the UVA Foundation is aware of the shortfall. 

Reading material:

#521 is dead! Long live #521!

This was supposed to be a day off with no deadline but at around noon I began writing up the Albemarle County transportation material, and the next thing you know, I’ve got a full script. I think this program works best when I produce it between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. There’s a lot to get to, and I’m slowly getting back to a routine.

All of this is paid for by paid subscribers either through Patreon or Substack. My gratitude to all of those! If you want to help out, do so through Substack and Ting will match your initial payment. 

If you sign up for Ting at this link and enter the promo code COMMUNITY, you’ll get:

  • Free installation

  • A second month for free

  • A $75 gift card to the Downtown Mall

Thanks to Wraki for incidental music in the podcast, which you can’t hear unless you listen to it. Check out the work on BandCamp!

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