Today’s meeting of the

Hillsdale Drive Steering Committee

welcomed a new participant. After four years of meetings, a member of the public showed up to observe the planning process behind the

extension of Hillsdale Drive

, through the Seminole Shopping Center, to Hydraulic Road.


Dexter Auction

, I arrived at the meeting about 10 minutes before it started at 8:30 this morning. City staff member Angela Tucker politely informed me that the steering committee meetings were not public, nor had they been for the past four years. I pointed out Dexter Auction had never been refused access to a local government meeting of the Eastern Connector Steering Committee or the County’s Development Review Process Task Force, similar committees comprised of elected officials, government staff, and citizen members.

Tucker said this committee was different as its members had been selected by the City’s Neighborhood Development Services Department and not City Council. Since it was clear I did not plan to leave, Tucker volunteered to ask the committee if I could observe. As the meeting began, I was then introduced as an “uninvited, but still perhaps welcome” guest. The committee quickly passed a motion to allow me to stay and I was relieved they didn’t object to a little more sunshine from the media on this important transportation project.

Rick Delong

, a Project Manager with McCormick Taylor, updated the committee on project activities since their last meeting in August 2007. The biggest challenge facing the project is what Angela Tucker describes as “threading the needle” with the road alignment between the U.S. Post Office and the Pepsi Plant [photo at right]. Sidewalks may have to be eliminated, but the committee hopes to maintain a multi-use path along this section of the road between the two facilities. The post office has cited security concerns and has not been receptive to having the road on their back doorstep. Negotiations between the City, Pepsi, and the post office are ongoing.

Delong described a September meeting with Chuck Rotgin that cleared the way for the road to cut through buildings in the north wing of his Seminole Square Shopping Center [photo at left]. The current road alignment plan has also been adjusted to accommodate the new Whole Foods grocery store to be located near the road’s intersection with Hydraulic. It also appears the Regal Cinema 4 will be the second theater to be eliminated along the corridor.

The neighboring Terrace Theater has already been demolished. Jeanette Janiczek, City transportation engineer and Hillsdale Project Manager, said the Regal representatives “were disappointed to see the alignment shift through their property, but they understood it as a business decision.”

The Committee also received additional information on the roundabout proposed for the intersection of Hillsdale Drive and Zan Road inside the shopping center area.

Earlier designs had shown roundabouts at Seminole Court and Greenbrier Drive, both of which will now be signalized intersections. A third traffic light will be at the terminus with Hydraulic Road. Up the street on Hydraulic, the traffic light between the Kroger shopping center and K-Mart is expected to be eliminated and the median crossover closed.

City Councilor Kevin Lynch asked the project team when they would resolve the alignment issues with the post office. Delong suggested they might be able to resolve their concerns before the end of the calendar year, but they were not sure how quickly the U.S. Postal Service would respond to any revised plans.

The project team, led by City staff and consultants from McCormick Taylor, plans to bring a final design to a public hearing in May-June 2008. The Steering Committee’s next meeting will be in advance of the public hearing but after the final design plan is completed and initial feedback has been received from the City and VDOT.

Brian Wheeler

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