MPO Approves 29 N. Expansion

29 N. is being widened, again. Traffic backs up pretty terribly along the section north of Wal-Mart for hours each day, often stretching clear to Ruckersville. So another lane is being added between Polo Grounds and Airport Road, which will surely be finished just in time to get terribly backed up again, what with the new developments approved for just north of there on 29. It seems like it was just yesterday that we dealt with years of beastly traffic while 29 was expanded to its current size. NBC 29 has thoughtfully provided a Google map of the section of the highway:

The addition was approved by the Metropolitan Planning Organization last week, and will be paid for with $2M in federal funds. Suckers for punishment can listen to the audio of the meeting, courtesy of Charlottesville Tomorrow.

41 thoughts on “MPO Approves 29 N. Expansion”

  1. OMG! Here we go again. Five to ten years of a horrible mess on 29. And why just one lane? BTW, I assume that’s one on each side. If they’re going to all that trouble, seems like two or three would be better.

    There are probably studies that answer this, but how much of the traffic is local vs. non local — i.e., highway through traffic? Where local includes Albemarle, Green and Orange. If it’s mostly local, it seems like having more roads cutting away from 29 to spread the traffic out would be better. If it’s mostly non local, then a bypass seems like it would be better. Of course as we have seen, a bypass is easier said than done.

    Oh brother is all I can say…

  2. Last time they had to move the utilities out of the median, that was the big problem. As much as I dislike pavement, after that project was done, it was fun to be able to drive up 29, from the Bypass to the S. Fork Rivanna, with no backups during rush hour. Now it’s gotten worse, but is still probably not s bas as before the project. Unless you are trying to get on from Hydraulic or Rio. Or wold like the cross the road as a human being.

  3. Speaking as someone who drives this part of US29 every day in both directions, this could be a huge boon. The ridiculous bottleneck situation that occurs EVERY day between the river and Airport Rd is just stupid. In addition to widening the road, VDOT should consider re-timing the traffic lights, because that must be a significant part of the problem as well. It’s probably only a matter of time before 29 looks like 28 in Northern Virginia, however, with an overpass/exit at every intersection. Ugly, but faster!

  4. In addition to widening the road, VDOT should consider re-timing the traffic lights, because that must be a significant part of the problem as well.

    That’s already in the pipeline. They’re going to be retimed clear up to the Greene County border.

    Incidentally, I recently drove that stretch of 29 for the first time in years. There are traffic lights there that I had no idea existed. What I thought was miles of unbroken driving is now blocked up. What a mess.

  5. Those traffic lights are indeed badly done. Try crossing 29 from the airport. The light allows one car to go through at a time sometimes. Good for 29 of course, but it’s dangerous because now everyone runs yellow and red lights from airport road because they know they won’t get across for hours otherwise.

    Instead of under/over passes, I’ve always liked parallel access roads on each side. Somehow they look and work better. Unless you cross another major road, then under/over is the way to go. I think it’s probably time at least when you get near Rio that access roads may be needed. Sad but true.

    And while we’re at horrible roadwork, what’s the deal with the traffic backups on 250E. That whole area around Pantops is quite horrible.

  6. The deal is the mountain became a shopping mall. More than that though it seems to be where people live, there and eastward. The outbound backups start at like 3:30pm! The bridge has already been widened recently, and the chances of building a new bridge over the Rivanna north of Darden Towe Park are low. So you’re left with US-250 or I-64. Good luck!

  7. Whatever happened to the idea of connecting E. Market to Pantops as an alternative to Free Bridge?

  8. The only time I’ve ever noticed a bottleneck there is when there is an accident. Adding another lane is just stupid. It’s the area’s solution to every traffic problem.

  9. I don’t know if this is the ironic comment thread or what.

    “Whatever happened to the highway straight the center of town?”

    Someone noticed all the new boulevards and highways were going through poor neighborhoods, and got 5th/Ridge declared historic. Look at an old map of what “Preston Avenue” used to be, totally different grid. And look at where it stops, becomes little two-lane Barracks/Rugby.

    Face it, Pantops will will always be clogged at Free Bridge until we run out of oil. If you moved east of town, tough luck! None of those alternative bridges will ever be built.

  10. I remember Preston well, when it was a neighborhood street connecting and not dividing 10 & Page with Rose Hill Drive neighborhoods. Present day Preston is actually a concoction of City Planning, believe it or not. Opposition to the four lanes went upon deaf ears. Speed, safety (I guess the median) and convenience were the buzz words then. Maybe that’s why I pay so little attention to urban planners now. The idea was to develop Vinegar Hill as a suburban-type shopping center and have a suburban-type road to get to it. At the same time suburban-type facades were being put on some of the buildings downtown. Now it serves as an alternate route for hospital workers to get to Free Bridge. I suspect I’ll die before anybody comes up with an alternate to Free Bridge.

  11. Colfer:Face it, Pantops will will always be clogged at Free Bridge until we run out of oil. If you moved east of town, tough luck! None of those alternative bridges will ever be built.

  12. rest assured bloggers on this thread that none of you will live long enough to see another lane added to 29N from Rivanna bridge to the airport road. The time between proposal and actual building is more than a lifetime. Example..Meadowcreek Parkway, by-pass around ch’ville ..etc. etc.
    The last road of any consequence that was built around here was the North Grounds Connector Road (Leonard Sandridge Blvd) and that was built by UVA. That road has a purpose and does a great job doing what it is suppose to do.

  13. The pressure is really on for Meadowcreek and the 29 corridor. Those have a good chance of being built, IMHO. Not so sure about the 29 bypass, but the 29 lanes, sure. Also, there may be a battle over expanding 250W. But around Pantops, the geography makes a new bridge unlikely.

  14. The $2 million mentioned above is only for preliminary work – I’m sure the actual construction will go way higher than that.

  15. Quoting Seinfeld in reference to my blank post : “ Com`n, Gimme another chance, I know I can do it!’

    >>>>Colfer:Face it, Pantops will will always be clogged at Free Bridge until we run out of oil. If you moved east of town, tough luck! None of those alternative bridges will ever be built.

  16. The $2 million mentioned above is only for preliminary work – I’m sure the actual construction will go way higher than that.

    Thanks for mentioning that, Al. When I read — and wrote — that, I was wondering how in the world they were planning such an expansion for just $2M. Just acquiring the necessary land (if VDOT doesn’t already own it) would surely use up nearly that sum.

  17. Why not just flatten out the median and put two lanes in. One going north to the airport road and another coming south to the bridge. Could put Jersey barricades to keep north/south lanes separate. I’m sure VDOT already ownes the medican strip now separating North/South lanes.
    $2m is not much money to plan a project such as this…just look at what has been spent over the past many years on the meadowcreek parkway.

  18. A transit center helipad surrounded by pads north and east as needed will accomodate gyrocopters and other small personal aircraft. Subterrainain pneumatic air tubes powered by the exhalations of Ken Boyd may also help. UVA steam tunnels can be reinvigorated and made passable.

  19. More roads and bigger roads are just invitations to developers to build more stuff…which will then require more roads and bigger roads.

  20. Jogger, I’m guessing VDOT would want a fully lighted roadway if they eliminate the median. Either way, there will be a lot of drainage work.

  21. i don’t know about flying cars. People can’t drive cars on the road nowadays. I can see them crashing into people’s houses.

  22. CVille Eye, I think you, like I, probably recall Preston Avenue at Reid’s Supermarket when it was one lane each way under the train tracks. And a very narrow one lane each way at that! Get a big Lincoln in one lane and a dump truck in the other, and they wuld knock each other’s side view mirrors off. And then when you followed Preston Avenue all the way to Barracks Road and looked right, all you saw was the trees and 2 lanes going northbound, one lane each way also. Life was so simple back then.

  23. And the duck pond at that restaurant at the intersection of Barracks and 29N. Hydraulic Road was pitch black country at night.

  24. … and we only travelled by horseback or horse drawn carriages. Ah yes, those were the days. :-)

  25. Close, DT. It was not impossible to see some kind of vehicle drawn by horses on some of the more rural roads.

  26. And don’t forget Pine Grove at the intersection of Hydraulic and 29N/29S, a service station and trailer court behind it.. Then just down the road years later came Humpty Dumpty….What a slower paced time in our “World Class City”.

  27. Ohh yes jogger. I remember it well. And right across the street…. the drive-in theatre. I think it was called Ridge Drive-in. Now those were the good ole days when life was slow and simple. A date, couple six packs, and a little privacy in the car. I don’t recall any movie I actually watched there!

  28. Pretty Soon It Will Be One Paved Road Between Here And D.C. Then Everyone Can Drive Around And Talk On Their Cell Phones Causing More Crashes. JC

  29. Duckpond? Would that be the one over where the Rivanna Trail near the new exit that was once used for ice skating? I wonder why they drained it? Of course, it doesn’t seem to get cold enough anymore for ice skating on ponds. Especially now that the Glaciers have retreated and the Wooly mammoth have left.

    Regarding this whole expansion though, I’ve been around enough to see this happen again and again. Adding a few new lanes will work for about a month or two, but they’ll just use it as an excuse to build more houses down there and it’ll be back to before in no time at all. I’ve always been a fan of the whole idea of overpasses which I hear were nixed because people thought 29 would end up looking like Northern Virginia. Too late folks… and now we have the dubious distinction of having one of the largest (and most dangerous) intersections in Virginia.

  30. My neighborhood seems to think the name was Carroll’s Tea House, on the west corner of Barracks and 29N. There’s a bank there now.

  31. I recall that as the location of “the Sound Machine”. Was it before that was there?

    Regardless, I think we don’t have nearly enough ponds and water features in Charlottesville. They keep talking about using mitigation credits from various projects to create some wetlands but I’ve not heard any details yet. I’ve also heard there should be some ponds/wetlands created with the meadowcreek parkway (because of the disturbance of existing wetlands).

  32. I do know that Parks wanted one large pond instead of a bunch of small ones but VDOT denied that proposal. So, yes there now has to be a series of ponds and wetlands but from what i’ve heard, the city still wants to make sure that they get something alot better than just detention basins. I’ve talked to them about this, and I think there is alot of possibilities there. I’ve got some ideas of my own that I’m pushing for how that would be best done.

  33. VDOT has a special arrangement with the City on that project, since the City is now the local project manager. VDOT will pay for VDOT things (retentions ponds, et.) and the City can feel free to add money to that if it wants to enhance it. So, if the City wants, for example, foot bridges it can pay for them and they will be included in the project.

  34. Thanks Sean,

    Can you confirm any solid details about whether they will indeed be more than just “retention ponds”? Verbally parks and people in City council have indicated that to me, but I’ve not seen anything “on record” about that yet.

    My interest is in seeing these ponds be more than just sterile water features for ducks and runoff. I’d like to see design go further into making them actual wetlands. Also, since the parkway is very likely to impact probably the only site for yellow pond lily in the city, it’d be nice to see that species and/or our other rare water lily in some of these ponds along with other local wetland species.


  35. It’s my understanding that the master plan for McIntire Park is supposed to be finished by May. I don’t know what iteration this is.

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