Pantops Traffic Charlottesville – Is there a Solution?

As any commuter or soccer parent knows, crossing over Pantops in the morning or afternoon, at any time during the week or weekend, takes planning ahead for the inevitable delays and congestion backups at the various traffic lights, especially at the Rt. 20 intersection.

Traffic has been a much-discussed topic of conversation for the past decade or more. Albemarle County has been working since earlier this year on an update to the Pantops area master plan intended to guide future development of one of its designated growth areas, as well as discussing options for helping pedestrians navigate the area between the Shopping Center and the housing units across the street behind the Montessori School.

Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan sets aside only 5 percent of the county’s 726 square miles for urban development. The rest is to be reserved for rural and agricultural use. 

Pantops – Designated Growth Area since 1971

The Pantops area has been designated as a growth area since 1971, when the first Comprehensive Plan was adopted. The Pantops Master Plan was first adopted in 2008 and has not been revised since.

According to Charlottesville Tomorrow, one big question going forward is whether the county should adjust the growth area boundary. Possible areas being reviewed for potential change, land around the Interstate 64 interchange at Shadwell and sections of the Ashcroft and Fontana neighborhoods.

“When we expand development-area boundaries, we look for a public purpose,” said Elaine Echols, the county’s principal planner. “We only extend public water and sewer within our growth areas.”

Create Neighborhood Access Roads

One of the principles in the Pantops plan is to create an internal road system that gives people on either side of U.S. 250 the ability to get around without having to cross the highway.

Other goals are to connect the Old Mills Trail along the Rivanna River to neighborhoods on Pantops, encourage the extension of bus service and to protect Monticello’s viewshed.

The goal is to have the revised plan before the Board of Supervisors in the spring of 2019.

Highlight Walkability

Echols said development in master planning areas is encouraged to conform to the county’s neighborhood model, which calls for walkable communities and a mixture of uses.

“What the plan is saying is that new development should reoccur in centers,” county planner Cameron Langille said. These centers include the Pantops Shopping Center and Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.

Another goal is to have interconnected streets that allow for people to not have to use the main highway. Echols said the Rivanna River provides a greenway for Pantops residents but the Old Mills Trail must be better integrated into the plan.

Five Themes Recently Discussed

At that January 2018 meeting five major themes were identified as the revision got underway.

The February meeting covered growth-area boundary adjustments. Traffic and transportation were discussed in March, parks and greenways in April and economic development and the Shadwell interchange in May.

Last year, the county opened a crosswalk at the intersection of State Farm Boulevard and U.S. 250. However, supervisors declined in January 2016 to pursue a study of where future pedestrian bridges might be located.

Many drivers would be happy with having something as simple as the traffic lights on Rt. 250 be timed a bit better as a stopgap measure in the meantime – stay tuned!

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