From the Editor: Roads and Traffic

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Roads and Traffic

Susan Nelson and Warren Byrd's Barnes plan
Susan Nelson and Warren Byrd’s Barnes plan

Crozet is filling up with cars and its past time to get serious about road design and traffic. The county’s recognition of its ownership of, and therefore responsibility for, The Square (see the story on page 1) means that we can finally get going on an effective plan that will make the heart of old Crozet into an attractive entry to future development of Barnes lumber yard. There’s no budget for it, but there must be.

The county also needs an earnest financial plan for the construction of the bridge over Lickinghole Creek that will allow an arterial road to be built from Cory Farm on  Rt. 250 to Westhall and other neighborhoods in eastern Crozet. Given the number of houses that now rely solely on Tabor Street for access, a choke point, this bridge is an urgent project. The Crozet Master Plan dubs this conjectural road “Eastern Avenue” and portions of it are now being built. But the bridge is the key segment and the county’s capital budget must include it.

Which brings us to the Milestone Partners plan for Phase One of the lumberyard development. The strong possibility that The Square will be converted to a one-way street means that Oak Street, which connects The Square to Library Avenue and is now partially built as part of the construction of Piedmont Place, should be a regular two-way street and not a parking lot as the proposed plan currently shows. The temptation to cut through the parking lot will be too strong. It should be conceived of as a street from the start and the parking needed should be shifted behind the buildings that will be built on the new block formed between Oak Street and High Street.

This solution is shown in the plan for downtown offered by retired landscape architects Warren Byrd and Susan Nelson (local residents) who offered it (free, as good citizens), with an explanation of its hows and whys, to the Crozet Community Advisory Committee last August. That meeting is the only occasion in the memory of your editor when the CCAC responded to a presentation with spontaneous applause. It was appreciation for an elegantly simple resolution of a difficult location to build on. For a report with plan illustrations, see the September 2015 issue of The Gazette.

Relegating the parking, as the urban planners call it, will mean that downtown’s public space, the plaza, won’t fit in the new block but will have to shift to the east side of High Street, where, with characteristic foresight, the Byrd/Nelson concept shows it.

This wise plan, with a grid of roads connected with tucked-away, large landscaped parking lots and a shady walking loop around the new blocks, deserves another inspection by county planners as the question of roads in downtown goes to a vote by the planning commission later this month.

2 COMMENTS

  1. As Crozet grows so does the traffic. So many parents refuse to allow their kids to ride the bus and create such a traffic jamb of auto’s that it is ridiculous. I would suggest to add a light at 240 & Jarman’s gap. As much as lights are disliked one here would be justified. Auto’s backed out onto the shoulder of 250 is becoming a safety issue. VDOT needs to rethink the roads as mentioned and do something before something happens.

  2. Mike,
    Sorry for my delayed response. I just recently saw the article. You raise some interesting points with regard to the road network and, as you know, Mahan Rykiel, together with Timmons Engineering, are reviewing all the options and exploring new ones to make sure we find the best solution. As you know, in some cases, there are competing interests and simple diagrams like Warren’s don’t reflect a thorough understanding of all the challenges. For example, Warren’s drawing shows the plaza to the east of High street and surrounded by roads. If we view the plaza as more of a park, this concept makes sense except that it pulls the park away from the core of downtown and isolates it from what will be the phase 1 commercial development. That’s problematic if we’re trying to create a civic center within phase 1. The other problem with the plaza location as shown on Warren’s plan is that the site slopes more than 20 feet from the north side to the south. As a result, It will be difficult to create a level plaza or park that’s readily accessible. Another challenge with this location is that it doesn’t allow any direct access from commercial or retail uses around the park. Because one of the objectives is to bring vitality to the park/plaza area, being able to accommodate a hotel and restaurants with outdoor seating that could spill out into a portion of the plaza/park was considered very desirable by most residents who provided feedback during the public engagement process last year.

    These kinds of competing interests also exist with the road network. The community wants a grid network of streets as shown in Warren’s plan but there is little support within the surrounding neighborhoods for the connections that would be needed to make a grid network of roads work. I hope, through education, we can change that and get the County to support, at a minimum, an additional connection to Three Notch’d Road and to Hilltop Street. And of course, we have to try to balance the community desires with VDOT requirements, which too often don’t align with community desires when it comes to road design.

    I’m confident that the team that the DCI has hired will consider all the competing interests w and provide the community with 2 or 3 good alternatives that the community can evaluate in early November.

    Many thanks for your continued interest and counsel. We will need strong community support to make this endeavor successful.

    Best,

    Frank

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