Frequently Asked Questions
More Frequently Asked Questions
How did VDOT conduct its traffic analysis and forecasts for the Route 29 Solutions projects?
The Route 29 Solutions traffic forecasts are based on new traffic count data collected in the summer and fall of 2014, and population and land use growth patterns included in the Metropolitan Planning Organization's official regional transportation demand model as maintained by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. This method, using an MPO's official regional transportation demand model for traffic forecasts, is the practice used for transportation forecasts in every MPO across the United States.
I’ve heard that the adaptive signal technology will benefit traffic flow on the corridor. If that’s the case why isn’t it being installed now?
Phase I of the installation of the adaptive signal technology kicked off in October 2014. The adaptive traffic signal technology manages traffic flow in real time both on the mainline (Route 29) and on the intersecting side streets by linking the traffic signal controllers at each intersection to determine the optimal signal cycle to move traffic most efficiently along the corridor.
The technology is being installed in two phases. Phase I is installing the telecommunications infrastructure to support the system, including network cabling, vehicle detection equipment and monitoring cameras. That equipment will be installed at 18 intersections on Route 29 from Hydraulic Road to Airport Road, and on three nearby intersections on roads that intersect Route 29. Phase one will be finished in June 2015.
The Phase I equipment will allow traffic engineers to monitor traffic in real time during construction and make adjustments to the signal cycles based on traffic flow, weather, special events and emergency incidents.
Once construction of all the Rt. 29 Solutions projects is complete in the fall of 2017, Phase II will install the actual adaptive signal controllers. The signal controllers are installed post-construction because they are intended to “adapt” to post-construction traffic flow conditions.
Why are these projects proceeding so fast?
The Route 29 corridor has been studied for over 30 years. Specific projects, including grade separated intersections, have been discussed since 1990.
The projects included in the Route 29 Solutions package are following all development processes and requirements. All of the projects were previously studied as part of Places 29. The Route 29 Solutions package includes funding to complete four projects that were already in the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) long-range plan and VDOT’s Six-Year Improvement Program. The Rio grade-separated intersection project was already included in the MPO’s longrange plan, and is now fully funded for construction in VDOT’s Six-Year Improvement Program.
Is the Rio Road grade-separated intersection all about removing three traffic signals?
No. While the grade-separated intersection results in removing three traffic signals for through traffic, that is only a result of the project and not the purpose of it. The primary purpose and benefit of the Rio Road / Rt. 29 grade-separated intersection is the separation of local traffic and through traffic which will improve mobility and safety in the Route 29 corridor. By directing through traffic to the underpass, those vehicles no longer mix with local traffic traveling through the intersection wishing to access local businesses. By 2040, more than 42,000 cars each day are expected to be in the through lanes, leaving the intersection clear for the more than 30,000 cars a day using the local lanes to access local businesses.
How does the community receive information and provide input during the design-build process? Are there fewer opportunities for input when design-build is used?
Public input processes for design-build projects are identical to other project delivery methods. For the Route 29 Solutions package, the selected contractor is required to submit plans at three different stages of development for each of the three design-build projects - the Rio Intersection, Berkmar Extended and Route 29 Widening. Those plans will be reviewed by VDOT’s technical team, and will be available for review by the Project Development Advisory Panel (PDAP). All PDAP meetings and material will continue to be made available to the public on the project website at route29solutions.org.
Will access to businesses at the Rio intersection be disrupted during and after construction?
Access to businesses at the intersection will be affected either directly or indirectly by construction, but access will be maintained at all times. During construction, every business that has access on Route 29 or Rio Road will continue to have an access point on Route 29 or Rio Road. However, due to the closure of cross movements within the intersection from May 23 - Sept. 2, 2016, some drivers may have to make U-turns or use parallel roads to access some businesses with entrances between Woodbrook Drive and Twentyninth Place.
After construction, every business that has access on Route 29 or Rio Road will continue to have an access point on Route 29 or Rio Road. However, the northern most entrance to Fashion Square Mall on Route 29 will become right in, and right out only. The Route 29 entrance to Albemarle Square shopping center will also become right in, and right out.
What’s being done to make the Route 29 projects attractive and complement the Charlottesville surroundings?
Aesthetic treatments are planned for the Route 29 projects. Charlottesville and Albemarle County worked together to agree on a sound wall treatment and color at the Route 29/250 Bypass interchange that’s similar to the treatments for the McIntire Interchange. A number of aesthetic treatments are planned for the Rio Road/Route 29 intersection. They include: patterned wall, bridge and color treatments similar to John Warner Parkway and McIntire Interchange that’s visible from all sides; decorative open face barrier railing; vertical columns at specified intervals, landscaping including on the bridge deck. The contractor will provide mock-ups for the PDAP to review before construction. Landscaping and bridge treatments are also included in the Route 29 Widening and Berkmar Extended projects.
Exactly how long will the intersection be disrupted because of construction?
The Rio/29 intersection will be restricted for 103 days from May 23 - Sept. 2, 2016. During that time, Rio can be closed to east-west traffic across Route 29. Left turns from Rio to Route 29 and from Route 29 to Rio can be closed. Right turns from Route 29 to Rio and Rio to Route 29 will be permitted. Three northbound lanes and two southbound lanes will be maintained on Route 29 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. The signalized light at Rio and Route 29 will not be in use during this time, which means north-south Route 29 traffic will move unimpeded, as will right turns.
Before May 23, 2016 and after Sept. 2, 2016, four through lanes in each direction on Route 29 and two through lanes in each direction on Rio will be maintained from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. All roadway connections and all existing traffic movements will be maintained 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
A temporary traffic signal at existing Berkmar and Route 29 will provide access to and from Route 29 during construction. This crossover can be used to detour around Rio for northbound and southbound traffic, and can be used to access the east side of Route 29 by southbound Berkmar traffic.
Is the Rio grade separated intersection in effect an “expressway” or a first step to an “expressway.”
No, the Rio GSI is simply an underpass that separates local traffic from through traffic. The length of the project that separates through traffic from local traffic is approximately 3,2000 feet,over a half of a mile. The first Route 29 panel that met in the spring examined an express lane option, but did not recommend that concept.
What’s the timing for the Route 29 Solutions package? Will Route 29 from the 250 Bypass northward be disrupted all at the same time?
No, construction of the projects are staggered to minimize impacts on Route 29 travel. The Route 29/250 Bypass ramp at Best Buy will be complete by May 21, 2016, before work commences within the Rio intersection. The Rio grade separation will be finished on or before Sept. 2, 2016. Road construction on Route 29 Widening will begin when the Rio grade separation is wrapping up. Both Route 29 Widening and Berkmar Extended will be completed on or before Oct. 30, 2017. Meanwhile, the first phase of the adaptive signal project will wrap up in June 2015 and will be ready to be deployed to help manage traffic flow during heavy construction periods.
Will private property be used during construction?
If VDOT takes an easement to use private property during construction, VDOT will compensate the property owner or tenant for the value of the property and for any damages, if there are damages. If the contractor wishes to use private property other than an easement during construction, the contractor must negotiate directly with the private property owner. The contractor cannot use private property without permission from the property owner.
Will traffic avoiding the intersection cut through neighborhoods?
Traffic counts were measured on nearby residential streets in the summer and fall of 2014 to determine existing average daily traffic volumes. If traffic on residential streets increase during construction, VDOT will work with the contractor to appropriately address the situation.
How have emergency vehicle access and first responders been considered during the planning for the project?
VDOT has taken care to ensure that emergency response agencies are not adversely affected by construction. The temporary traffic signal at Berkmar Drive will include pre-emption equipment that gives priority green to emergency vehicles approaching the intersection. The temporary median break will also allow emergency vehicles from west of Route 29 rapid access to Rio Road and other areas east of Route 29 while movements across the Rio Road intersection are restricted. In addition, emergency response agencies are represented on a technical advisory panel that will provide guidance and feedback to the project team before and during construction.
Would weaving create a greater safety hazard under the new road configuration?
VDOT has conducted a traffic analysis of the traffic flow north and south of the Rio Road intersection after construction. That analysis determined that the distances are sufficient to allow traffic movements, including merges and movements from the far right to the far left or left-turn lanes.
What is the status of the right-of-way VDOT purchased for the Western Bypass?
VDOT has received approval to release property acquired for the construction of the Route 29 Bypass. Nine properties, purchased as advanced acquisitions, will be offered for sale to the former owners. If those owners decline the offer to repurchase the property, it will be offered to the public through a sealed bid process. In all, about 125 properties purchased for the bypass will be reviewed to determine whether any of the right-of-way is needed for future transportation improvements as required by law. Once reviews of those properties are complete, the properties will be offered back to the original owners. Again, as required by state law, if the original owner is not interested in repurchasing the property it will be offered for sale through a sealed bid process.
What is the Project Delivery Advisory Panel?
The Project Delivery Advisory Panel (PDAP) is a group of twelve people representing businesses, local governments, and interest groups who are advising the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) on matters regarding the design and delivery of the Route 29 Solutions Package of projects. See more about the panel.
Who is on the PDAP?
The members of the PDAP are Pete Borches, Chip Boyles, Morgan Butler, Eddie Giles, Mark Graham, Satyendra Huja, Chuck Lebo, John Nunley, Brad Sheffield, Jim Tolbert, Karen Weiner and Henry Weinschenk. The affiliation of each member can be found in the Advisory Panel section.
Why wasn’t the Hydraulic Intersection prioritized ahead of Rio? Isn’t it is the far more congested intersection?
The Hydraulic Intersection is more congested than the Rio Intersection. However, the Rio intersection project is an isolated construction project while Hydraulic is not.
Hydraulic is a complex project because of the proximity of the 29/250 interchange. The scope of the Hydraulic Road preliminary engineering study will include the 29/250 interchange and also a connection to Route 250 from Hillsdale South, as recommended by the City of Charlottesville and the Route 29 Project Delivery Advisory Panel.
Why is the Rio intersection prioritized ahead of the parallel roads? Wouldn’t putting in the parallel roads first give commuters an alternative to Rt. 29 while construction is going on?
The parallel roads will offer alternatives to using Route 29. But, if the parallel roads were constructed first, traffic passing through the Rio intersection heading to or coming from Hillsdale Drive, Berkmar Drive and John Warner Parkway would increase congestion at the already poorly functioning intersection that currently must handle both local and through traffic.
By completing the Rio project first, traffic passing through the intersection heading to or from Hillsdale, Berkmar or the John Warner Parkway will be served by an improved grade-separated intersection at Rio Road that will operate at efficient levels of service for both local and through traffic.
During construction of the Rio intersection, existing Berkmar and Hillsdale will continue to provide alternatives to using Route 29 both north and south of the Rio intersection.
Why is VDOT considering widening 29 and working on the Rio intersection at the same time? What is the rationale behind two major improvements in proximity of each other going on simultaneously?
There will be some overlap during construction of the projects, but both projects are not being constructed at the same time.
Financial incentives are being used to start and complete the Rio project between May 23, 2016, and Sept. 2, 2016. For the Route 29 Widening project, major roadway construction within the right-of-way will begin in August 2016 and will finish on or before Oct. 30, 2017. During the widening of Route 29, current capacity levels will be maintained.
What opportunities will there be for public input?
There are multiple opportunities for public involvement. Public hearings will be held for each project. See the calendar for upcoming public hearings. (link to calendar page)
On Oct. 14 VDOT held a joint design public hearing for the design-build projects: Rio Grade-Separated Intersection, Route 29 Widening, and Berkmar Drive Extension.
Additional information regarding the design public hearings will be publicly announced.
Information in advance of the hearings will be available on this website and at VDOT’s Residency office in Charlottesville at 701 VDOT Way. The public is encouraged to attend all public hearings and submit comments. VDOT will review all comments and include appropriate suggestions in the design and construction of the projects.
Public comments may also be submitted anytime through this website.
Why is this proceeding so fast and what are the projected completion dates for these projects?
The projects included in the Route 29 Solutions Package are following all development processes and requirements. All of the projects were studied as part of Places 29. The Route 29 Solutions Package includes funding to complete four projects that were already in the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) long-range plan and VDOT’s Six-Year Improvement Program. The Rio intersection project was already included in the MPO’s long-range plan, and is now funded for construction in VDOT’s Six-Year Improvement Program.
The firm fixed completion date for all projects is Oct. 30, 2017. However, VDOT is providing an incentive package for early completion of the Rio Grade-Separated Intersection no later than Sept. 2, 2016.
How do I stay up to date on the progress of these projects?
Check this website for regular updates to the Route 29 Solutions package of projects. Here, you can find general information as well as links to specific projects that are apart of the solutions package. Additional project links will be coming on line throughout the project timeline.
You can also watch the Project Delivery Advisory Panel meetings live at on this website, or watch videos or listen to audio podcasts of all past meetings. The panel meetings are held at the Virginia Center for Transportation Innovation and Research, 530 Edgement Road, Charlottesville, VA, 22903, and are open to the public for anyone who wishes to attend.
VDOT will provide project updates, including information about future construction activities and traffic impacts, by email throughout the development and delivery of the projects. If you wish to be added to the email distribution list please send a request to Route29Solutions@VDOT.Virginia.gov.
VDOT’s Route 29 Solutions management team is located in the Charlottesville Residency at 701 VDOT Way. Contact Joel DeNunzio, VDOT’s Resident Administrator in Charlottesville, at 434-422-9373 or at Joel.DeNunzio@VDOT.Virginia.gov for more information.
Will there be help for businesses along the corridor during this time?
A variety of methods can be used to assist businesses affected by transportation construction projects. Those strategies range from enhanced direction signage to business counseling and cooperative marketing. VDOT, Albermarle County, and the MPO are working together to develop meaningful appropriate assistance to businesses during construction.
Will construction happen during heavy commute times? Will construction be at night when there is less traffic on the road?
Only limited construction activities that do not require lane closures will occur during commuting hours. In non-residential areas, construction will be completed at night when there is less traffic on the road.
Will the Route 20 Solutions Package impact funding for other road needs in the County? Will these projects take all the money for years to come from other badly needed improvements?
No, the funding for the Route 29 Solutions Package does not impact funds for other road needs. The money to construct the Route 29 Solutions Package was transferred from the Route 29 Western Bypass project. Funds were not transferred from any other projects. Money for improvements to Albemarle’s secondary roads will continue to be allocated using a statewide formula. Funds for interstate and primary highway projects will continue to be allocated on the basis of needs and priorities established by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in accordance with state law.
Are the McIntire Road intersection and the District Avenue projects being administered by VDOT? Can we expect the same type of execution at Rio Road?
The City of Charlottesville is administering the Route 250 McIntire Road interchange project under a program called the Urban Construction Initiative. VDOT’s role is limited to financial oversight. The Hillsdale Drive Extended project is also being administered by the city under the same initiative.
District Avenue is a private road within the Stonefield development in Albermarle County and is not part of the state highway network. The property owner and developer are responsible for District Avenue including maintenance, road openings and closings.
The delivery of the Route 29 Solutions Package of projects is focused on transparency, open public involvement, project incentives, local experienced VDOT project management, and a detailed plan of execution that applies to all projects.