As Albemarle takes another look at its own future—and how to preserve what it has historically done well—now seems like a good time for local advocates to hear from their counterparts in other localities, who have been successful in similar socio-physical landscapes.
As you may know, the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Board voted last week to pursue VDOT SMARTSCALE funding for a pedestrian bridge connecting Pantops and Woolen Mills at the end of Market Street (the Wool Factory). Allison Wrabel wrote a good story about the vote.
Getting a pedestrian connection over the Rivanna in this area is a big win for the community, and I’m excited for the next step. Although the public survey and MPO Technical Committee both preferred the Chesapeake Street location, Market Street has powerful logic of its own and some late-breaking and not-obvious factors were decisive in the vote.
For one thing, much of the support for Chesapeake Street was contingent on the bridge being an elegant suspension bridge, which came into doubt late in the process. Many people might well have voted differently if they had known the bridge style would likely be more industrial in nature. Of course, it would have been better to know this from the beginning, but the process did work in that it brought the issue to light before the final location was selected.
What’s more, the Albemarle Board of Supervisors has a strong preference for the Market Street alignment adjacent to the Wool Factory site, which locates the bridge entirely in the County. Albemarle is stringing together a series of projects that merge economic development and community wellness in Pantops, the Old Mills Trail, the Wool Factory and Broadway. The bridge at Market Street ties them all together.
Not only is Albemarle putting forth plans, it is putting money behind them. The existing improvements at the Wool Factory are one example. Also quite interesting is the fact that the county has recently juiced several transportation projects with millions from its Transportation Leveraging Program.
That kind of local support (or Economic Development funds) could help mitigate the cost difference between the two bridge location options and be of critical importance if unforeseen contingencies arise. Although both options had strong appeal, the Policy Board (with representatives from Albemarle, Charlottesville, and VDOT) selected the one that it would best be most able to get behind and push to completion.
For all those reasons, this is a very positive outcome.
On February 28, representatives from organizations, local businesses, agencies and passionate individuals who share a mission to promote walking, biking, running, everyday access to nature and active lifestyles gathered for a free, half-day workshop to identify areas of collaboration and lay out work plans. About 30 people joined the Zoom-based meeting to check in with one another about collective work started at last year’s first virtual Mobility Active Summit.
Charlottesville and Albemarle are in the midst of major planning efforts, and both are thinking about their capital budgets, which is a big part of how those plans get implemented. At this time, the two localities seem to be heading in different directions when it comes to quality-of-life infrastructure.
There were thrills and chills at the Halloween Social Bike Ride in Charlottesville on the evening of October 28, 2021. About two dozen riders, most of them in costumes, gathered at Peloton Station and rode a relaxed, six-mile route through Charlottesville neighborhoods and the University of Virginia grounds.
The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) is working with the Fifeville Neighborhood Association (FNA) and the Rivanna Trails Foundation (RTF), the City of Charlottesville and many other community organizations to connect Greenstone on Fifth (an income-qualified housing development) to Tonsler Park and surrounding neighborhoods.
Passionate activists, professionals, and community members came together virtually on August 27 to work to make Charlottesville and Albemarle a better place for walking, biking and active living. Later, many of them (joined by others) enjoyed an outdoor happy hour and mixer. The day culminated with a community service award presentation to Albemarle County’s recently retired Greenways Coordinator, Dan Mahon.
For Charlottesville to reach its potential as a truly world-class city, residents must be able to move about easily, safely and affordably. Much needs to be done to reach that (appropriately) high standard, yet we can’t do everything all at once. So where should advocates, planners and officials focus their efforts?