Albemarle Tackles U.S. 29 Redevelopment

If there’s one thing that everyone in Charlottesville-Albemarle County agrees upon, it’s that the U.S. 29 corridor north of town is a mess. This fall, the County will present the Places29 Master Plan for redeveloping the corridor. Based on the description published in the Daily Progress today, the plan is ambitious, and it will offer some useful ideas. But it may fall short of what’s needed.

On the positive side: The Places29 plan acknowledges that changes in land use must accompany any transportation improvements. Writes reporter Jessica Kitchin:

“When you have an area that’s been developed different times by different people in different ways … after a certain amount of time, the retail is going to want to redevelop,” said Judy Wiegand, a senior county planner who has been heading up the Places29 effort. “We want to encourage it. When the market says that it’s time for redevelopment, we want to have something in place that encourages redevelopment that suits the principles of the ‘Neighborhood Model,’ so it’s walkable and pedestrian-oriented.”

As for specifics, the plan would knit together parallel roads that would enable local traffic to get around without entering U.S. 29. Planners also would guide the creation of a “midtown” area at the Rio Road intersection and an “uptown” near the airport, where, I presume greater densities would be permitted. Additionally, Places29 contemplates a Bus Rapid Transit service running up and down the corridor.

Consultants are hammering out details, and the public will be able to comment this fall.

What’s missing from the article — which doesn’t necessarily will mean it will be missing from the plan — is a mechanism to encourage developers to undertake the expensive task of tearing down, redesigning and rebuilding. The single-most effective thing that government can offer is density. That may be what planners have in mind for the “midtown” and “uptown” areas, but U.S. 29 is so atrocious up and down its entire length that they’ll need to create incentives to redevelop land in between the density nodes as well.

The other concept that I didn’t see mentioned in the article — again, that doesn’t mean it won’t be in the plan — is corridor management. U.S. 29 is riddled with curb-cuts in and out of malls, shopping centers and individual stores; in many cases there is literally no other means of ingress and egress. A corridor management plan would limit those ins and outs, which bogs down the traffic flow along 29.

I look forward to seeing the details this fall.

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3 responses to “Albemarle Tackles U.S. 29 Redevelopment”

  1. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Jim, how are those curb cuts any different from traffic calming methods, other than that they serve a purpose? It seems that they bog down traffic and prevent VMT fairly effectively.

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    When people are pulling in and out of parking lots onto the man drag, they force oncoming cars to slow down, disrupting the smooth flow of traffic. I’m no expert on this topic, but apparently it’s more efficient overall for people to enter the main thoroughfare at controlled intervals such as stoplights.

  3. Ray Hyde Avatar

    Oh, now I see what you mean. Service roads do this by funneling the local or intra-mall traffic onto the side roads with fewer locations to enter the main road.

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