New way to North Grounds
Connector road opens five months early
Photo by Dan Addison
|Crews put the finishing touches on the North Grounds Connector, which opened on Jan. 13, five months ahead of schedule. The road provides a main entrance to U.Va.’s North Grounds, University Hall and the John Paul Jones Arena, to open in June.
By Matt Kelly
Fans attending the last basketball season in U-Hall now have a new way to get there.
The North Grounds Connector, which links Massie Road to U.S. 250, opened on Jan. 13, five months ahead of schedule. Designed to be the main entrance for the John Paul Jones Arena, slated to open in June, the new road also will bring Cavalier basketball fans to see the rest of the 2005-2006 season.
“The early opening of the North Grounds Connector gives the public time to get used to the new road before we officially open the arena and begin to hold events later this year,” said Leonard W. Sandridge Jr., executive vice president and chief operating officer.
The $129.8 million multipurpose John Paul Jones Arena will house the men’s and women’s basketball programs and will host about 60 other cultural and entertainment events a year.
The connector, which cost $4.1 million, will provide 24 hour-a-day access, seven days a week, to the North Grounds. Drivers enter the half-mile-long road via a right-hand exit off the eastbound lane of the U.S. 250 bypass. During events, police will control the road using traffic cones, with two lanes coming into the arena before events and two lanes exiting the arena when events are over.
The University is working with the Virginia Department of Transportation and Charlottesville and Albemarle County police departments on a traffic plan for athletic and cultural events, as well as for day-to-day traffic.
“Beyond its role in traffic management for the John Paul Jones Arena, the connector adds an important new piece to the roadway system in the county,” Sandridge said. “This road is an example of the University working with the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County to enhance our local transportation system.”
Early, on-budget completion reflects cooperation among VDOT and design and construction teams to accomplish a rarity in the construction business, according to Richard B. Laurance, the project director.
“Extended work hours, an acceleration of the early part of the project and ideal weather conditions allowed the project to finish five months early,” Laurance said.
Road construction included blasting underground rock, closing Massie Road during the summer and closely monitoring traffic interference and neighborhood concerns.
There are crossings for the Rivanna Trail Association and Darden and Law School students, a fully functioning traffic signal at the Massie Road intersection with the North Grounds Connector, and lighting and sidewalks in the main pedestrian areas. The connector will be fully landscaped to provide a natural looking entrance to the University.
The University will maintain the landscaping and snow removal, but major repairs will be performed by VDOT as part of its routine cycle.