The streetscape anticipates a pocket park replacing a right-hand turn lane Credit: Credit: Rhodeside & Harwell

The Charlottesville City Council has agreed to move forward with a $31 million upgrade to West Main Street by breaking the project into multiple phases in order to help secure financing from the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Every other year, VDOT takes applications for programs through its revenue-sharing program.

“It matches every dollar that we put in with state money,” said Jeanette Janiczek, the manager of the city’s urban construction initiative.

“It helps encourage localities to invest in their infrastructure,” she added.

A new streetscape for West Main Street has been in the works for several years. The general idea is to install wider sidewalks, bike lanes and new street trees.

In May, Council approved a schematic design developed by the firm Rhodeside & Harwell. The firm is now drawing up construction documents for the project which are expected to be ready next spring. As of May, the firm has been paid $1.37 million for work since the fall of 2013.

VDOT now alternates each year between funding projects through its revenue-sharing program and the Smart Scale program. In that process, projects from across the state are ranked according to a series of criteria including how they address congestion, boost economic development and improve safety.

The city has allocated $10 million to the streetscape project in its capital improvement program (CIP). A Smart Scale application for $18.6 million for the streetscape project did not qualify for funding.

The strategy now is to make two requests through the revenue-sharing program over the next four years to pay for portions of the project.

The first request would be for a $6 million project for the area between Ridge Street and 6th Street West with the local match coming from the money already allocated to West Main in the city’s CIP. Janiczek said the funding for the first phase would be available on July 1, 2019 if awarded.

The second request, to be made in fiscal year 2020, would be for the second phase of the streetscape between 6th Street W and 8th Street W. This section has a total cost estimate of $4 million.

The city will submit another Smart Scale application next year to pay for the rest of the West Main streetscape project between 8th Street and Jefferson Park Avenue.

None of the above projects will include placing utility lines underground because VDOT does not pay for that kind of work. Rhodeside & Harwell estimates this will cost $11.6 million for the entire street.

Janiczek said the city will make two other VDOT revenue-sharing requests to increase the amount of funding for new sidewalks and bike lanes.

“We’d be using all the plans that we’ve created to try and disperse them to make sure all of our priority projects are funded,” Janiczek said.

One request for $500,000 will be made this year and another for $400,000 will be made in fiscal year 2020. The local match would come from the CIP’s bike improvement, new sidewalk and accessibility funds.

Council took several other actions related to transportation funding.

They agreed to apply for a $300,000 transportation alternative program grant from the Virginia Department of Transportation that would pay for a bridge across Meadow Creek as part of an east-west trail between U.S. 29 and the John Warner Parkway. The city will contribute $75,000 toward the project.

Council also blessed a second $400,000 TAP grant with a local match of $100,000 coming from city.

“This is for a section of trail along the U.S. 250 bypass connecting the Dairy Road Bridge and Hydraulic Road,” said Brian Daly, the city’s director of parks and recreation.

This project will eventually include a pedestrian bridge over the CSX railroad track that bisects McIntire Park. That structure has been in the planning stages for many years and went out for construction bids earlier this year.

“There are really important legs in a network that’s regional in vision that is also beyond just recreational,” said City Councilor Kathy Galvin. “It’s a commuter path. We’re really getting serious about a regional bike network.”

Council also agreed to apply for a $75,000 grant from VDOT’s Highway Safety Improvement Program to pay for a bike and pedestrian path to connect two different portions of Madison Avenue via Washington Park.

“There is currently a staircase in this location that is not conducive for bicycles, strollers or wheelchairs,” reads the staff report for the item. “This trail would provide non-vehicular multi-use travel options for residents of Madison Avenue housing, and students attending Venable School and Burley School as well as for the general public.”

The city will contribute $10,000 as a local match if the Commonwealth Transportation Board votes to award the grant.