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Earlier study results confirmed in re-test

U.Va. To Commission Additional Traffic Study

August 6, 2002-- The University of Virginia has accepted the city of Charlottesvilleıs recent recommendation in a letter to the Department of Environmental Quality that U.Va. pay for a new traffic study before the Emmet Street parking garage opens. A mutually agreed-upon firm will conduct the study using traffic data collected this fall.

"We hope the next study will resolve any remaining doubts about the data and assumptions used in the first one," said Colette Sheehy, U.Va.'s vice president for management and budget.  "We expect it to be more detailed than the planning study, and will help us develop and refine operating strategies for the garage and to determine the best timing, phasing, and synchronizing of the traffic signals at the entrances and nearby intersections."

In addition, Sheehy said, the University has contracted with Parsons Brinkerhoff, one of the worldıs largest engineering firms that specialize in transportation and planning, to advise on operational matters, such as lane configurations and the placement and use of proposed traffic signals.  New traffic counts at the Emmet-Ivy intersection will be taken this fall as part of their work.

Sheehy also announced that the traffic consultants who conducted the Universityıs first full traffic study -- the North Grounds Transportation Synthesis Study done in June --  have completed a re-testing of their earlier study.

Responding to questions raised by traffic experts hired by the city and a group of local residents to review U.Va.'s initial traffic study, the Glatting Jackson firm re-ran many of the analyses, revising the methodology as the other experts had suggested. Using the recommended factors, however, did not change the original conclusions, said Walter M. Kulash, a senior partner at the Orlando, Fla.-based firm.  

"For example, we recomputed the traffic performance of the Emmet Street-Ivy Road intersection following all of the recommendations of the reviewers," Kulash said.  "While the average delay increased slightly, from 41.5 to 49.1 seconds in 2003 and from 38.0 to 44.1 seconds in 2006, the overall level of service at that intersection did not change. It is still at a level considered reasonable for an urban area." 

At the request of U.Va. planners and local residents, Glatting Jackson also produced a computer simulation of current traffic-flow conditions at that intersection.  This new simulation, when compared with a model of future conditions displayed at a public meeting in May, shows the positive effect of synchronizing traffic signals and other proposed improvements in the area, Kulash said.

"This model shows that existing conditions are, in fact, worse than those shown in the 2006 model after the three projects [the garage, a new arena and a future garage in the arts complex] and the North Grounds Connector are complete," he said. 

After information was collected for the original study, the city changed the timing and the phasing of the Emmet Street-Ivy Road traffic light -- increasing the average wait time to its present 52.4 seconds -- to allow pedestrians more time to cross. The  average delay previously had been calculated at  26.4 seconds. (The revised study allows for this increase.) 

Glatting Jackson also addressed the reviewersı concern that a proposed traffic signal at the garageıs Emmet Street entrance would be too close to the light at Ivy Road, possibly violating Virginia Department of Transportation standards.

"We contacted an engineer in VDOTıs traffic operations division for the departmentıs signal spacing criteria," Kulash said.  "She said that while there are criteria for signals on rural roads, VDOT has no formal policies or guidelines for urban areas.  They evaluate proposed signals in such locations on a case-by-case basis, using principles established by a national manual on traffic control devices."

Kulash noted that signals in built-up urban areas are commonly less than 1/4 mile apart, reflecting the small size of downtown blocks or parking garage entrances at mid-block.  A local example is the 2nd Street signal for the Water Street garage, which is less than 150 feet from the light at the Water Street intersection.

Most of the comments made by reviewing engineers, he said, asked for a level of detailed analysis normally found in an operational study, not at the planning level.  Nevertheless, when they applied the suggested operational-level detail to a sample of their analyses as a test, it did not change the results.

Contact: Carol Wood, (434) 924-6189

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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