June 7-20, 2002
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Report: Connector to ease traffic woes

By Matt Kelly

While the Lewis Mountain Road Neighborhood Association has been protest-
ing the construction of a new parking garage behind the Best Western Cavalier Inn, a study commissioned by the University says that several building plans, including the parking garage, will not impede the flow of traffic in the area.

The report, from consultants Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin Lopez Rinehart Inc., examines the impact of several proposed projects, including a new arena, an arts precinct with its own parking garage and a road connecting the North Grounds with the U.S. 29/250 bypass, as well as the parking garage. The initiatives can be undertaken without causing “unacceptable or significant adverse traffic operating conditions for any phase of the development program,” the report says. In addition, traffic flow through some intersections would improve and, in others, delays would increase only marginally.

The North Grounds Connector is cited in the report as the siphon that will draw much of the traffic from arena events and, in calculating traffic impact, the report assumes the existence of this connector. The proposed connector would reduce traffic at the Emmet Street and Ivy Road intersection, and Massie Road would be blocked during arena events, redirecting traffic out Copeley Road to routes 29 and 250 and out the connector to the bypass.

The consultants recommend that traffic signals be synchronized and the University modify its traffic control plan to allow for human traffic directors at several intersections during events. The University also should work with the city and the neighbors to minimize traffic impacts.

“By allowing access to and from the north only at the Emmet Street entrance to the garage, a measurable component of garage traffic is not allowed into the Emmet/Ivy intersection,” the report said.

The consultants were brought in about two years ago when the University was exploring ideas for the arts precinct and began concentrating on the parking garage and arena projects a year ago. The design for the garage and the parking study “developed hand in glove,” University Architect Samuel A. “Pete” Anderson III said.

Wade Walker and Lawrence Lewis, representing the consultants, joined Anderson at a May 29 meeting with residents of the Lewis Mountain Road neighborhood to explain the report.

The consultants said delays on Emmet Street and Ivy Road would not be enough to push drivers onto neighborhood streets, which has been the concern of many of the Lewis Mountain neighborhood residents. Poor access to main arteries from the neighborhood streets would create additional delays for drivers, instead of shortening their trip.

The study measures delays as the difference between the time it takes for a vehicle to go through the intersection without stopping versus how long it takes while having to stop or slow down.

The report’s analysis indicates that the delay at the Ivy Road-Emmet Street intersection, near the proposed Emmet Street parking garage, is currently 26.4 seconds, which will decrease to a 26.2 second delay from 2003 to 2006. Then the delay will increase to 32.6 seconds without an event and to 58.9 seconds with an event, during the peak hour of traffic. The 2006 estimates are factoring in the North Grounds Connector.

The proposed five-level garage would be 600 feet by 120 feet and 53 feet high, which Anderson said would be shorter than the Cavalier Inn, and it would be built on land that is below the street level. He said the view of the garage would be blocked by trees in warm weather and later by student housing.

Anderson said a dormitory would still be built between the garage and the street, housing 600 to 700 students. U.Va. plans to build a walkway bridge, he said, over Ivy Road connecting the four-story building with the International College.
Some people at the meeting questioned when the data of the current traffic flow was taken. Some neighbors said the rush hour starts at 3:30 p.m., while Walker said peak hours of traffic through the area are from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., as determined using VDOT and city traffic figures.

Lewis Mountain residents were skeptical, questioning the data collection and conclusions. University officials agreed to examine traffic reports from the City of Charlottesville and from the Lewis Mountain Neighborhood Association and try to reconcile them with its own traffic study. Anderson said the University would welcome a peer review of its traffic study.

The state’s environmental impact study on the traffic should be completed next week.


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