COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

 

AGENDA TITLE:

Eastern Connector Alignment Study

 

 

SUBJECT/PROPOSAL/REQUEST:

Presentation of the  recommendation from the Eastern Connector Steering Committee

 

 

 

STAFF CONTACT(S):

Messrs. Tucker, Foley, Davis, Graham, Kelsey, and Wade

 

 

LEGAL REVIEW:   Yes

 

 

AGENDA DATE:

October 1, 2008

 

ACTION:  X           INFORMATION: 

 

CONSENT AGENDA:

  ACTION:             INFORMATION: 

 

 

ATTACHMENTS:   Yes

 

 

REVIEWED BY:

 

 

BACKGROUND:

The Eastern Connector was identified in the long range transportation plan for the Charlottesville/Albemarle area for an alignment study. The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors (Board) and Charlottesville City Council (Council) decided in 2006 to jointly fund a $500,000 Eastern Connector Study. The study area for the Eastern Connector is roughly an area bordered by Route 250 to the south, Route 29 to the west, Proffit Road to the north and Route 20 to the east.  The purpose of the study identified in the Scope of Work was to: “Determine the basic feasibility of the proposed Eastern Connector and the definition of no more than three alternatives for this proposed facility. In essence, this will represent a major investment study (MIS) for the defined study corridor. A ranking of the performance of the three final alternatives was to be prepared to allow for the members of the Council and the Board to identify a locally preferred alternative which could then be advanced into the more detailed formal preliminary engineering and environmental impact assessment phases of project development.

 

The Board and Council appointed a Steering Committee to direct the consultant and select alternative alignments. At its August 7, 2006 meeting, the Board approved the membership and duties/function of the Eastern Connector Steering Committee.  The mission of the Committee was to:  “Work with a consultant to determine a minimum of three alternative alignments that will provide a connection between US 250 east of Route 20 and US 29 North between Rio Road and Profit Road.  Study shall provide a thorough assessment of issues related to each alignment and a recommendation on preferred alignment based on analysis and direction provided during project”  (See Attachment A)

 

STRATEGIC PLAN:

Goals 3:  Develop Policies and Infrastructure to Address the County’s Growing Needs

 

 

DISCUSSION:

The Committee’s recommendation will be presented to the Board on October 1, 2008 by Lewis G. Grimm, P.E., Project Manager for the transportation consultant. Mr. Grimm has been working closely with staff and the Committee to develop the recommendation.  Mr. Grimm will include additional information on issues relating to developing a recommendation and the process the Committee used in developing its recommendation.  The Steering Committee held meetings throughout 2007 and 2008 with the consultant, which allowed for public participation and input.  The input from the pubic was valued and considered in the Committee’s recommendations.  Attached are summaries of the Committee and public meetings (Attachments B and C).  

 

While the details of the recommendation are best explained with the presentation, staff has attached a map showing the recommended alternatives (Attachment D).  Staff notes that all of the recommended alternatives considered have serious challenges.  The preferred alternative (3) includes either a 4 lane or 2 lane road going through Pen Park and possibly through Darden Towe Park.  The Committee recognized there is considerable public opposition to the connector going through the parks (see public comments in Attachment C) and there are possibly significant federal hurdles in placing a roadway within parks that have received federal funding or for a roadway to be built with federal funding through a park.


 

Despite those issues, the transportation modeling showed the roadway would have to be close to Route 250 to be effective and this alternative was considered the only viable option available when weighing all of the factors. Additionally, as shown on the graphic, the Committee has recommended planning for future connections far into the future with Alternatives 1 and 2.   Neither of those alignments was considered effective within the Eastern Connector timeframe, but the lack of a better option closer to Route 250 sparked recognition that there is a need for planning further into the future for transportation improvements (e.g. 50 year timeframe).  Staff notes that both Alternative 1 and 2 also have significant issues and that there are potential conflicts with the Southwest Mountain Historic District, Proffit Historic District, and properties already in qualified conservation easement. (Attachment E). Additionally, these alternatives may conflict with some goals of the County’s Rural Areas Plan.   All of these issues would need to be further studied if there is interest in planning for a future connector using either Alternative 1 or 2. 

 

Cost estimates for each of the alternatives are identified in Attachment F.  These estimates include the costs of construction and right of way acquisition associated with each alternative and range from $40,000,000 to $169,000,000.  No funding sources for these costs have been identified.    

 

Finally, it is noted that the Committee decided against seeking additional public comment before presenting this recommendation to the Board and Council.  This decision was based on the Committee’s recognition that the public sentiment on the recommended alternatives has already been heard and it was more appropriate to first review the recommendation with the elected officials.       

 

BUDGET IMPACT:

This study has already been fully funded.  If the consultant is required to provide additional services beyond the presentations to the Board and Council, a contract amendment and additional funding would be required.   If the City and County decide to move forward with an Eastern Connector alignment, funding would be required for engineering, surveying, permitting and right of way acquisition.   Previous long range transportation studies done by the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) estimated that $9 Million would be needed for that phase of the project.  A source for that funding has not yet been identified.   

 

 

RECOMMENDATIONS:

The presentation completes the Committee’s task by providing a recommendation to the Board and Council.  If the Board and Council are interested in moving forward with the Committee’s recommendation, staff recommends two options for proceeding:  

1.                   Complete a more detailed analysis of federal and state permitting requirements, as related to a road though the park(s) and across the river, to determine if Alternative 3 is viable.   After reviewing this information, if the Board and Council believe the permitting requirements allow a road to be constructed through the park(s), a public meeting can be scheduled to receive comments on this proposed road. 

2.                   Schedule a public meeting to receive comments on the recommendation.  Following the public meeting, if the Board and Council are interested in proceeding, staff recommends an analysis of the federal and state permitting process be completed and presented to the Board and Council.  

 

Following completion of the public meeting and analysis of federal permitting requirements, if the Board and Council have interest in proceeding further, staff recommends possible funding strategies be identified before initiating a design effort.  

 

If there is interest in including Alternatives 1 or 2 in the County’s Comprehensive Plan, staff recommends that the Board direct staff to develop and present to the Board an analysis of issues related to establishing a future road alignment across conservation easements and historic districts.  After consideration of this analysis, the Board can make an informed decision as to whether either of these alternatives is viable and should be considered for inclusion in the Comprehensive Plan.           

 

ATTACHMENTS

Attachment A - Eastern Connector Steering Committee Duty/Function Sheet

Attachment B- Steering Committee Meeting Summary

Attachment C – Public Hearing Meetings Summary

Attachment D- Committee Recommendation

Attachment E- Alternative Issues

Attachment F- Cost Estimation

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