July 12-25, 2002
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N. Grounds Connector seen as link in traffic plan

By Matt Kelly

A proposed $4 million road link between the U.S. 29-250 bypass and Massie Road will help relieve congestion from city streets after basketball games and other special events at the planned new arena, University officials say.

The North Grounds Connector will feed into Massie Road between the North Grounds Recreation Center and the Darden School. The University has included the connector in its plan for the $128 million arena project.

A recent traffic study prepared for the University by Gladding Jackson Kercher Anglin Lopez Rinehart Inc. projected that the connector would help relieve pressure from Emmet Street and Ivy Road. During special events, the connector would carry 40 to 50 percent of the traffic, with the rest shunted out both ends of Copeley Road to Ivy Road and Emmet Street, according to arena project director Richard B. Laurence. The eastern end of Massie Road would be blocked during events, so patrons will not be able to access Emmet Street from there, he said.

As currently designed, the North Grounds Connector will have two wide lanes, which will be broken into three lanes for events — two in and one out before, then two out and one in afterward. The 35 mph road will follow the contours of the terrain and will provide two-lane access to the North Grounds. Initially, the University will maintain the road, with eventual plans to turn it over to the state.

The design of the road’s intersection with the bypass has not yet been decided. There are four options, including a grade crossing with lights and an overpass, but the Virginia Department of Transportation is under a court order barring it from discussing a final design.

The Southern Environmental Law Center has filed a lawsuit against VDOT over the proposed U.S. 29 western bypass. The judge in the case has enjoined the agency from discussing and planning any aspect of the project, including where the University’s road would connect.

The University is continuing to design the road, though uncertain about whether it will connect to the existing bypass or the proposed western bypass.
“We may have to connect to the 250 bypass as an interim measure,” University landscape architect Mary Hughes said.

The design and construction will go on with or without VDOT’s input, Laurence said. “We intend to go ahead with the half-mile of it, but not the last 250 feet,” he said. “The sooner we know, the better, but we can go up to the last year without talking to them if there are no changes. But if they are going to get fancy and want overpasses and things, then we need to know next year.”

Work on the connector, which is being paid for with private funds, will start next spring, Laurence said. About 40,000 cubic yards of fill excavated for arena construction will provide a base for the connector, saving the University hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.

The road is expected to be finished when the arena is, in 2006.


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