The Central Virginia Transportation Planning Organization adopted its Connect Central Virginia 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan on Thursday.
This plan serves as a guide for the region in creating a more efficient, responsive and environmentally sensitive transportation system during the next 25 years, and represents the interests of the city of Lynchburg, the town of Amherst and urbanized portions of Amherst, Bedford and Campbell counties.
With an unprecedented amount of public input received earlier in the year, Scott Smith, CVTPO transportation planning director, said Wards Road, downtown Lynchburg, Timberlake Road and the much-discussed intersection at U.S. 501 and U.S. 221 garnered the most interest and feedback.
Smith said the almost 1,000 public comments received in January and February centered around these highly populated and often congested areas and aligned with a number of projects already underway or in development.
Some, such as the 501/221 intersection improvement, already have received funding and kick-off in the next several years. The long-awaited project is intended to relieve congestion and improve safety at the U.S. 221 intersection by splitting U.S. 501 into a one-way pair on either side of 221.
Smith said the notable increase in public comments likely was because of promotions done for the survey, as well as people’s increased comfort in turning to online platforms to provide feedback.
A long-range plan is updated every five years, and Smith said in 2020 more people are doing things online than they were in 2015 and 2010.
Because of the feedback, Smith said CVTPO reconfigured its plans along Wards Road, specifically the stretch from the Lynchburg Regional Airport to the Yellow Branch Elementary School area.
He said CVTPO plans to make a number of improvements to help the mainline traffic, drivers traveling through the area along U.S. 29, and broke the project up into several smaller segments to make funding requests more feasible.
Despite the disruption caused by COVID-19, which forced in-person meetings to be canceled, Smith said the virtual town hall held in June went well, and ultimately likely reached a wider audience as it was recorded and broadcast throughout the Lynchburg area.
The long-range plan has been in the works for about a year, and contains much-anticipated projects such as Rivermont Avenue and Bedford Avenue intersection improvements and safety improvements along Waterlick Road.
The Rivermont Avenue intersection project aims to construct left turn islands at the intersection of Rivermont and Bedford avenues, and the Waterlick Road improvements include new turn lanes, a new median, road widening and installation of new signal poles to address congestion and safety issues.
At the Thursday meeting, Phil White, a planner with EPR, a Charlottesville-based engineering consulting firm, said along with the nearly 1,000 online survey responses, there was outreach with about 350 residents at public events.
“We have arrived at a strong plan that will position the central Virginia region to get the funding that it needs to build a strong legacy of smart transportation investments,” White said.
In response to feedback since the board’s last meeting in August, he said the plan now includes discussion of the James River Heritage Trail in downtown Lynchburg and related trail projects, as well as added projects to enhance bike and pedestrian paths, among other additions.
Notably, for the first time, the 2045 long-range plan will include a living document — a web-based dashboard CVTPO staff is in the process of developing that will allow the public to go online and track project progress and see maps and data used to develop the plan.
Smith said staff hopes to launch the dashboard in October.
The CVTPO Policy Board will next meet Jan. 21.