Untangling traffic

Region addresses road and parking problems

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Print this page by Carlos Santos
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Roadwork in Albemarle County
Photo by Tom Saunders, courtesy VDOT

Navigating Charlottesville-area traffic and finding a place to park are ongoing regional issues.

Albemarle County, for example, is tackling a grade-separated interchange project at the intersection of Rio Road and U.S. 29 — the largest such intersection in terms of number of lanes in Virginia.

Work on relocating utilities began in May 2015 with crews working only at night, between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Tim Hulbert, the head of the Char­lottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, says some of the businesses in the area — about 600 with locations between Seminole Square and the Rivanna River bridge — have been “challenged” by the massive construction project.

“Some businesses have had losses of 20 to 60 percent of their revenue,” he says. “Some businesses decided to move.”

An even bigger road headache involves Rio Road — a main east-west thoroughfare in Albemarle. It was scheduled to be closed to traffic from late May through Sept. 2.

Lou Hatter, a spokesman for VDOT, says “so far things are going well on the project. The contractor is out there working steadily and the winter weather was very nice to us.”

The project is on schedule, Hatter says. While Rio is closed, crews will be working 24 hours a day, seven days a week “in getting the intersection reconstructed. There’s certainly been some inconveniences,” for businesses in the area, Hatter adds. “But we’re working real closely with them to minimize that.”

Charlottesville City Council, meanwhile, is preparing an attack on the downtown area’s No. 1 problem — lack of parking. Though the downtown pedestrian mall remains a hive of business activity with its dozens of restaurants and other businesses, consumers are daunted by the lack of parking spaces.

So the city has decided to run a parking meter pilot project. It’s expected that some 160 or so meters will be “tucked around the downtown mall,” says city spokeswoman Miriam Dickler, though no timetable for installation had been determined in late April. “The goal of this is to actually increase business activity. The goal is to free up some parking.”

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