Virginia Department of Transportation officials held a public hearing on April 17 about the planned replacement of a Crozet Avenue bridge over Lickinghole Creek, first revealed to residents during the March 13 CCAC meeting. VDOT staff were on hand with details, architectural renderings, and maps to answer questions and solicit feedback from those who will be affected by the project, which is most everyone who drives through downtown Crozet.
The bridge, almost invisible to drivers on a stretch of Crozet Avenue just north of Chesterfield Landing and just south of Oak Street, is structurally deficient and must be replaced with a new two-span structure. Much more involved than the simpler box culvert bridge replacement over Little Ivy Creek on Route 250 last year, this project will cost $2.2 million and will require a long closure of the road beginning in the fall of 2022.
“We have two options that we’d like residents to consider,” said Howard Tomlinson, bridge project manager. “The first alternative would close Route 240 [Crozet Avenue] in both directions for six months with a detour for traffic.” That detour would redirect northbound cars eastward along Route 250 out to the intersection under the Mechums River railroad trestle, and then back into town via Route 240, reversing this direction for southbound cars.
The second alternative employs a “phased approach” to construction over at least eight months. “The bridge would be reduced to one lane, and traffic would be controlled by a temporary traffic signal,” said Tomlinson. This option would allow traffic to still flow on Crozet Avenue but would likely cause delays near the bridge site.
A large map displayed at the meeting showed the official detour route in red/blue, but VDOT officials also acknowledged that local residents may opt for a shorter detour to the west by using Old Trail Drive as a cut-through, highlighted in yellow/green. This option, while probably not viable for larger trucks given the narrow streets and roundabouts, could greatly increase car traffic through Old Trail during the closure.
Crozet’s fire and rescue squad officials have performed timed trials of the alternate routes around the bridge site and are emphatically against a full closure of Crozet Avenue. “We have a very strong opinion against complete closure, because it would add between three and five minutes to our responses to the other side of the bridge, to the south and east of our coverage area,” said Kostas Alibertis, chief of the Western Albemarle Rescue Squad. “In addition, it would require us to run our rescue vehicles through the Old Trail community, and with the construction and the multiple roundabouts, that poses an additional challenge for us to provide timely service.”
Fire department staff feel the same way, said Alibertis, and both services feel they can make the single-lane option work. “A single lane open would be quicker [than a detour] because VDOT would put an actuator on the temporary traffic light, so the light would be activated by our sirens and we would get priority passage.”
Also in attendance at the meeting were representatives of the Crozet Trails Crew, who were hoping to influence the design of the new bridge to facilitate a usable Lickinghole Creek trail crossing to connect to local trails. The group would like a wide enough pedestrian or bike lane on the bridge for walkers, runners, and bikers. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a crossing here,” said Bob Dombrowe, vice president of the CTC. “This bridge was built in 1921, and I don’t want to wait another hundred years to try to make this happen.”
Though the official public comment period for this project ended on April 27, residents may still contact the project manager with questions or additional comments at Howard [email protected].