Jan 19, 2021 • 10M

January 19, 2021: VDOT recommends millions in funding for area transportation projects, including Hydraulic/29 and West Main Street

 
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Regular updates of what's happening in local and regional government in and around Charlottesville, Virginia from an award-winning journalist with nearly thirty years of experience.
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On today’s show:

  • Several transportation projects are recommended for funding including a third phase of the West Main Streetscape

  • A local business group gets funding to create a new networking platform

  • Intrastate public transportation has been canceled due to security concerns related to the inauguration

Need a little extra space to stow your stuff away? Support for today's installment comes from Storage Sense in Charlottesville, now accepting tenants to fill the brand-new 658 interior temperature-controlled storage units at its location on Pantops Corner Way. Now offering contact-free storage rentals, tenants can handle everything from renting to bill-paying online from the comfort of their own homes. Visit www.storagesense.com or call (434) 658-1003 to pick a place to keep your valuable safe and secure. 


Today’s count of new COVID cases in Virginia is the lowest in two weeks with 4,526 reported this morning. Three out of ten of Virginia’s total of 451,076 cases have been reported in 2021. The seven-day average of positive PCR tests is now at 13.6 percent, down from 16.5 percent on January 5, when the case count was 4,377. 

In the Blue Ridge Health District there are another 55 cases reported today, the same as on January 5. Nearly 29 percent of the district’s 9,731 cases to date have been reported this year. Forty-three percent of Nelson County’s 523 cases are from 2021 compared to 16 percent of Charlottesville’s cases. 

Meanwhile, the latest epidemiological model put together by the Biocomplexity Institute at the University of Virginia forecasts that cases in Virginia could peak at 50,000 a week by mid-February, but the number could be higher than that if people abandon safety protocols. 

“A slow vaccine rollout, accompanied by pandemic fatigue, could see new cases increasing into April,” reads on the key takeaways in the report dated January 15

That figure of 50,000 a week by mid February is part of the Best Past Control Scenario which assumes steady increases in vaccination as well as continued adherence to masking and distancing protocols. However, the latest report also has a Fatigued Control Scenario which shows cases peaking at 75,000 a week in late March if vaccination roll-out stalls and pandemic fatigue continues. 

Today, the Virginia Department of Health reports they now have a seven-day moving average of 17,464 vaccinations a day. The goal is to get to 50,000 as soon as possible. (view the dashboard

Source: UVA Biocomplexity Institute

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A data-driven application process has recommended funding for several major projects in the area, including $24.6 million for improvements at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road. This also includes nearly $8 million for the third phase of the West Main Streetscape in Charlottesville. Both are recommended for funding under the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale process, which ranks projects according to a series of metrics including congestion relief, public safety, and economic development. 

Albemarle and Charlottesville are both within VDOT’s Culpeper District. 

“Culpeper gets a total of 20 projects recommended for funding for a total of $166.9 million dollars,” said Chad Tucker with the Office of Intermodal Planning and Investment. 

Smart Scale was put in place after nearly $230 million was spent on several projects to address congestion on U.S. 29 including construction of Berkmar Drive Extended and a grade-separated intersection at 29 and Rio Road. Smart Scale is now in its fourth round and nothing is final until the Commonwealth Transportation Board takes a vote in June. Under the recommended scenario, the Hydraulic project received the highest score in the Culpeper District. 

“That will really augment the investments that have been done at Rio in helping to keep traffic moving efficiently and safely along the U.S. 29 corridor in the Charlottesville,” Tucker said. 

Projects recommended for funding in Albemarle include $11 million in Route 250 East Corridor Improvements, $8.5 million for safety improvements at the intersection of Old Lynchburg Road and 5th Street Extended, a roundabout at the intersection of the John Warner Parkway and East Rio Road, and a $7.5 million for a roundabout and other safety improvements at the intersection of Route 20 and Route 53.

Projects recommended for funding in Charlottesville include $5 million for a project to increase safety on Ridge Street, $6.1 million for improvements at the intersection of Preston Avenue and Grady Avenue, a second phase of multimodal improvements on Emmet Street, in addition to phase 3 of the streetscape.

Council has been waiting for the results of Smart Scale before making a long-term decision about the future of the West Main Streetscape, which was broken into multiple phases in 2017 after a previous Smart Scale application to cover the whole cost did not qualify for funding in the second round. A portion of the project was covered in the third Smart Scale round. 

A roundabout at Troy Road and Route 250 in Fluvanna County has also been recommended for funding. 

“I think Culpeper did a very good job of having targeted improvements that are addressing safety in congestion hotspots throughout the district,” Tucker said. 

More on this as the weeks and months continue. For a more complete picture, be on the look-out for a story from Allison Wrabel in the Daily Progress.

Source: Virginia Department of Transportation

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Tomorrow’s inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president has led to security crackdowns throughout the capital region. That includes the shutting down of several transportation routes. Jennifer Mitchell is the director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. 

“On Friday, we did make the decision to suspend our state-supported Amtrak routes for tomorrow and [Thursday],” Mitchell said. “So starting from 6 a.m. tomorrow to 6 a.m. Thursday which is also consistent with some of the other highway closures.”

Mitchell said the state has also suspended the state-funded intrastate bus routes that enter into the District of Columbia. This includes the Valley Flyer, the Piedmont Express and the Capital Connection. Those services will resume as normal on Friday. 

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The Charlottesville Business Innovation Council has been awarded by a GO Virginia grant of $76,500 to develop a “digital connection platform” to help businesses expand their networks.

“The cloud-based platform and mobile app will be a robust and dynamic centralized platform that provides the connections, tools, resources and information necessary to guide, bolster and support the Region's entrepreneurial ecosystem at all levels during the pandemic and beyond,” reads a press release. “Potential users of the connector platform will be individuals, businesses, startups, investors, innovators, non-profits, and economic development professionals.”

GO Virginia is a program of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development intended to boost economic opportunities across the Commonwealth. Albemarle and Charlottesville are within Region 9 along with Culpeper, Fauquier, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa, Madison, Nelson, Orange and Rappahanoock counties. The Central Virginia Partnership for Economic Development will help oversee roll-out of the Connector Platform which is expected to occur later this year. 

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Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society holds it annual meeting and the guest of honor is Edward Ayers on the topic All History Is Local. Ayers if a former dean of the University of Virginia College of Arts and Sciences and President Emeritus at the University of Richmond. He’s now the executive director of New American History. Here’s a blurb from their website:

“History is the turbulent, unpredictable, and deeply human record of everything that happened before this moment,” reads the about page. “Through interactive maps, video, audio, an algorithmic engine of journalism, and tools for educators, we hope to make visible what was previously invisible about our shared American story.”

You can participate in the program on Zoom or watch it on Facebook Live

Ed Ayers