City residents studied the maps and gave their thoughts on proposed improvements to the intersection of Barracks Road and Emmet Street at a public meeting at Walker Upper Elementary on Wednesday.
Consultants and city staff discussed four pedestrian/bike options and three road proposals with the crowd.
The city received $8.6 million to perform updates to the intersection from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Smart Scale program earlier this year. The state funding does not require a local match.
An average of 23,000 vehicles travel north on Emmet Street and 13,000 go west on Barracks through the intersection each day, according to Brennan Duncan, the city’s traffic engineer.
The project will include a pedestrian refuge island, a small section of concrete allowing walkers to stop halfway through a crossing, in the medians of Emmet and Barracks on each side of the roads. The existing Charlottesville Area Transit stop would be upgraded with a bus shelter.
The three road proposals call for right-turn lanes from northbound Emmet Street onto eastbound Barracks Road.
Westbound Barracks would have four lanes at the intersection, of which two would be dedicated left-turn lanes.
The only difference in the three options is the length of the second through lane, which could be as short as the current configuration or stretch to Hessian Road.
Brian Copeland, a senior project manager with engineering firm Timmons Group, said the longer through lanes require a retaining wall and removal of trees and part of a hill on the north side of Barracks Road.
“There will be more impact to build an option like that,” he said.
Traffic currently queues at least back to Hilltop Road during peak travel times, Copeland said, and the improvements could cut that down to Hessian Road.
The four bicycle/pedestrian options are relatively similar. One is a six-foot-wide sidewalk with a grass buffer between a bike lane.
The second option removes the grass buffer, bringing the bike lane closer to the sidewalk and providing space for a protective barrier from vehicles.
The third option is a multiuse path with a grass buffer between the road and the fourth is a multiuse path that stretches to the curb.
Each option has the same amount of accessibility for bikers and walkers, Copeland said.
“It’s just a matter of what would you prefer,” he said.
Clara Belle Wheeler said she was fine with improvements at the intersection, but told several officials that destroying trees farther away was a mistake. She said it would “obliterate a perfectly beautiful driving corridor.”
Wheeler said the thick tree canopy east of the intersection provides a quiet escape for landowners and drivers between Emmet and downtown.
“You enter that corridor with this perfectly lovely tree canopy … and it’s magical,” she said. “You’ll turn this into three blocks that will look like West Main, which no one thinks is beautiful. It’s a concrete jungle.”
The project isn’t expected to reach final design until summer 2021 and construction would begin in spring 2023.
Kyle King, Charlottesville’s transportation program manager, said it’s too early to determine how long construction may last.
City residents are encouraged to visit barracksemmetimprovements.com and vote on the options.