County planners presented an updated Transportation Project Prioritization document to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors October 4, and from Crozet’s perspective, the list was more significant for what it didn’t contain than for what it did. Planning staff judged the worthiness of 127 distinct transportation-related construction projects currently proposed for Albemarle County and prioritized them into two tiers. Nine projects located in Crozet were among the 58 included in the first tier list. However, Crozet’s critical Eastern Avenue connector road tumbled from #8 on the county’s 2019 list down to #78 for 2024.
Crozet’s highest-ranked project on the list is a roundabout at the intersection of Rt. 250 and Old Trail Drive, coming in at #3 overall. Kevin McDermott, Acting Director of Planning, described the reasoning behind the ranking. “[Though] the project was not previously ranked [in prior years], and it was not a ‘catalyst’ project [in the Crozet Master Plan], a transportation study that was done associated with the Crozet Master Plan identified it as one of the intersections with the highest levels of congestion,” he said. “It’s also on the VDOT Top 100 Potential for Safety Improvement list, so there are significant safety concerns with that one that got it ranked up there.”
McDermott explained that each project was evaluated using six factors: land use, economic development, safety, congestion, equitable accessibility, and environmental impacts. Each project was given a score of 1 to 10 for how well the project would address each factor in its vicinity (for a max total score of 60). For example, a project near large developments or community resources such as parks or schools would receive more points in the land use category. A project in a location where serious vehicular accidents have been occurring would receive more points in the safety category.
At #10 on the list is a Rt. 250 shared use (bicycle/pedestrian) path from “Crozet Drive to Cory Farm Drive,” a project that the report described as also derived from the Master Plan. The Crozet Master Plan’s Transportation chapter, however, lists the community’s top priorities as: sidewalks along Park Road to Brookwood Road, shared-use paths from Highlands to Park Ridge Drive, and sidewalk connections between Downtown and Crozet Park, including Tabor Street and Hill Top Street. (See list below for a roundup of all Crozet-related projects in the first tier.)
Crozet Community Advisory Committee Chair Joe Fore called into the board meeting during the public comment period to express dissatisfaction with the rankings. “My view is that the first tier of the draft priority list doesn’t contain enough projects that support the needs of Crozet residents,” said Fore, “and the projects that are listed in the first tier don’t reflect the community’s prioritization as expressed in the Crozet Master Plan.”
Fore pointed to the sidewalk projects as an example. “The Tabor/High Street pedestrian improvements are listed as the very last project in the First Tier list, at number 56,” he said. “[But] the pedestrian improvements in that area are critical given the increased car traffic that will accompany the expansion of Crozet Park’s facilities and the development of downtown Crozet, so that project should absolutely be higher.
Another critical sidewalk project missing from the first tier list entirely is sidewalks along Park Road from Westlake to Crozet Park. The absence of sidewalks in that area has been a major reason for opposition to proposed developments like Oak Bluff and others as residents worry about how they can walk or bike to the park safely.”
Fore did not address the missing Eastern Avenue connector in his remarks to the board, but commented for the Gazette about its absence from the first tier. “In addition to the obvious point that it’s beyond frustrating to see [Eastern Ave.], once again, being kicked down the road, it’s also frustrating to be seeing such mixed signals from the County,” said Fore. “On the one hand, county staff (including Kevin McDermott at the Montclair Planning Commission meeting) are saying that staff are still working on it and actively trying to find ways to fund it. But then it’s left off the priority list, which sends a very different signal.”
After the meeting, McDermott provided additional context to the Gazette for the lowered priority of the Eastern Avenue connector.
“Eastern Avenue dropped for a few different reasons,” said McDermott. “The biggest is likely the addition of the environmental protection factor to the equation. Eastern Ave. is a new road on a new alignment and therefore will require significant new land disturbance and vegetation removal. It will also be in a sensitive area that surrounds Lickinghole Creek including wetlands, waterways, floodplain, a wildlife corridor, and riverine vegetation. Other ranked projects tended to have significantly fewer environmental impacts and so for that reason tended to score better in that factor.
“A second area where I think Eastern Ave dropped in ranking was related to congestion. In the previous ranking we awarded significant points for that project’s ability to address congestion. As part of the Crozet Master Plan update, we performed a transportation study analyzing conditions throughout Crozet which showed that congestion was not as bad as we expected around Crozet when compared to other areas in the county. This makes sense as Crozet has a relatively small population compared to other areas in the County and doesn’t have a significant amount of business that drives additional traffic coming in from other areas.
“I’d also like to note that I do believe as we make updates to the ranking between the draft and final priorities that Eastern Ave will go up in the ranking. This is because of the identification of some areas that should have been included in the draft ranking that we missed. This includes in the safety factor identifying the critical need that road would serve for improved emergency access into an area that has few ways to get in and out of.
“This project did not earn many points for economic development because there is little economic development that would be supported by this project. There are also few locations identified as a safety concern based on crash data. Cost was not a consideration in the priority ranking and so that was not a factor that played into the drop in ranking. Further, this effort is separate from the Master Plan process in that it is utilizing more quantitative data to determine priorities, whereas the Master Plan focused more on qualitative factors.
“Finally, I’d like to make sure to point out that the transportation priorities are just one of the many data points/considerations that the Board has when deciding to move forward with a transportation project. Being lower on the priority list does not mean that the county is not going to move forward with a project.”