Joel DeNunzio of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) presented an update on road projects in the Crozet area at the March 13 Crozet Community Advisory Committee (CCAC) meeting. In addition to providing details about the timing and cost of various large-scale projects, DeNunzio dropped a bombshell about an upcoming Crozet Avenue closure that is likely to cause further headaches in an already jammed-up traffic pattern.
“We’ve got to replace the bridge on Route 240 over Lickinghole Creek,” said DeNunzio. “You might cross that bridge every day and not even know there’s a bridge there, but it’s on Crozet Avenue just north of Chesterfield Landing and just south of Oak Street. We’re going to have to replace that bridge in the next couple of years with a new two-span structure.”
The plan sounded reasonable until DeNunzio got to the details. The replacement will require one of two options: a six-month full closure of Crozet Avenue, or an eight-month closure while maintaining one lane of traffic across the bridge with a temporary traffic signal. (At the meeting, DeNunzio initially described a 12- to 18-month road closure, eliciting groans of dismay from attendees, but he corrected the projected timing in a follow-up email.)
“The closure will require a detour, which is to take traffic east on 250 out to our most miserable intersection in the county [the Rt. 240/250 intersection under the railroad trestle] and then bring it back in on 240,” said DeNunzio. “The good news is that the bridge is in good enough shape that I think we’ll have the roundabout at 240/250 done before we have to detour traffic.” The project is expected to cost $1.9 million and will be advertised in 2022.
Residents were taken aback by the closure news and asked why, by contrast, the bridge at Little Ivy Creek on Ivy Road had taken only two weeks to complete. “The replacement at Little Ivy Creek was a box culvert,” said DeNunzio. “This is a full two-span bridge.”
For those who would like more details or to express an opinion on the bridge project, a public hearing on the design will be held on April 17 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Crozet Library.
The remainder of the major projects discussed have been made public in prior presentations, and included:
A roundabout at the intersection of Routes 240 and 250, at a cost of $3.5 million. There will be a public hearing in June and will be advertised in November of 2020. The intersection will remain open during construction.
A roundabout at the intersection of Routes 250 and 151, at a cost of $5.8 million. VDOT expects to award the contract in June and have construction completed in 2023.
A rerouting at Exit 118 off I64, to close off the Rt. 29 southbound entrance loop onto I64 and replace it with a turn lane that runs under I64 and then follows a ramp westward up to the highway. The project is expected to cost $1 million and to be completed in 2023.
An adjustment at Exit 118 off I64, just north of the exit where traffic flows onto Fontaine Avenue, to construct a middle lane option where traffic can exit or continue on Rt. 29. Expected cost $2.9 million.
A “diverging diamond interchange” at Exit 124 (Pantops) off of I64, where signals control flows across the interstate in a manner similar to the Zion Crossroads interchange. Expected cost $18.4 million, complete in 2023.
DeNunzio also presented data on traffic flows in the area of Crozet Avenue, Jarmans Gap Road, and Tabor Street during morning and evening rush hours. The data showed current conditions and the projected effects of placing four-way stops at either of the intersections to ease wait times for cars moving in and out of Tabor Street or Jarmans Gap Road onto Crozet Avenue.
The results showed that four-way stops at either intersection would marginally help reduce wait times for the side streets, but would also increase both wait times and, importantly, the length of queues on Crozet Avenue, sometimes backing up into the problematic intersections themselves. CCAC member Tom Loach pointed out that hundreds of new apartments are set to be built in the nearby Vue and Pleasant Green developments, which will only make the Jarmans Gap intersection worse.
DeNunzio recommended continuing to monitor the intersections going forward. “I think what we’ll do is keep the data for now and see how things grow,” he said. “We usually use all-way stops when we need a traffic light and we do the stop signs as an interim measure. In the future, Library Avenue will really be a major intersection here, and the Mudhouse light will be removed, so we may need some kind of coordinated light system [between all three intersections] to make that work.”
CCAC member Shawn Bird referred to a potential source of relief that is still in limbo. “It sounds like, from everything we’ve talked about tonight, all of these problems are extremely mitigated by getting Eastern Avenue [a complete north-south connector from Westhall down to Rt. 250] done,” he said. “Why isn’t that the priority at this point?”
DeNunzio said VDOT does not initiate road projects unless they represent safety risks; capacity-related projects must be initiated by the locality. The answer, per Supervisor Ann Mallek, is that Eastern Avenue is not currently funded. “It’s a $10 million project that’s been in the plan since the 1980s, and was the basis for all of the rezoning that’s been done in that area,” she said. “The money will have to come from federal and state funding, and it will be a miracle to get it done in the next five years.”