By Sean Tubbs

Dexter Auction

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Conceptual drawing of the northern terminus of the Hillsdale Drive extension (Source: City of Charlottesville)

One of the region’s top transportation priorities could move forward sooner than expected if the City of Charlottesville receives a $14.2 million federal stimulus grant. Construction of the

Hillsdale Drive extension

is not expected to begin until 2018 at the earliest if the community has to rely on funding from the

Virginia Department of Transportation


When built, the Hillsdale Drive extension will serve as a parallel road to U.S. 29 by connecting Greenbrier Road with Hydraulic Road. It would be built through the parking lots of several shopping centers, including Seminole Square. The road is being designed for local traffic and will have a maximum speed limit of 25 miles per hour, as well as sidewalks and bike lanes.

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VDOT has a current cost estimate of $30.5 million for the project. That figure includes $3 million for design, $18.6 for acquisition of right of way, and $8.8 million for construction. However, the project was removed from VDOT’s Six-Year Plan for secondary and urban road funding due to budget cuts.

The project manager for the City, Jeanette Janiczek, acknowledged that funding is an issue at a recent joint meeting of the



Charlottesville Planning Commissions

. She said the City is working with property owners to get them to donate right of way or at least sell it at less than market value.

At least one of the property owners is receptive to the idea.

“We’ve always said that we would be very accommodating in terms of right of way acquisition,” said Chuck Rotgin, president of the

Great Eastern Management Company

which owns the Seminole Square Shopping Center.

One obstacle to the goal of reducing the right of way costs for the project is a plan by the owners of the Regal Cinema to expand in their existing location.

Though the plans were announced in April

, the City has not yet received a site plan. Officials with Regal Cinema could not be reached for comment.

With no additional money coming from the state to pay for the road until at least 2016, Janiczek said the City is applying for grants to raise money. One opportunity is the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, part of the economic stimulus package. The City applied for a $14.2 million grant and expects a decision to be made by mid-February.

If that effort is successful, Janiczek said the road could be constructed within two years. Meanwhile, preliminary design work continues and a public hearing is scheduled for spring of next year.

Rotgin had not heard about the grant possibility, but said he thought Charlottesville’s application might have a chance.

“This may be one of those projects that’s near shovel-ready,” Rotgin said.

First phase to be built next year

The southern terminus of the road will be built next year as part of the new

Whole Foods

being built near the K-Mart.

The City is helping the developer finance the $3.1 construction costs

of that section of the road

“We expect shovels any day now to begin on that section,” said Missy Creasy, Planning Manager for the City of Charlottesville. The new Whole Foods is expected to be finished by the end of 2010 according to Janiczek.

As part of the new road, the existing traffic signal at the Kroger and K-mart parking lots will be removed in favor of a new one at Hillsdale Drive.

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