The new extension of Hillsdale Drive has been open for a couple of months, but some in the community continue to call for a traffic light to replace an existing two-way stop sign at one of the road’s key intersections.
“We and a majority who live, work and play in this neighborhood have always believed that a traffic signal is necessary at Hillsdale and Greenbrier,” said Peter Thompson, executive director of the Senior Center.
The Senior Center is located in the southeast quadrant of the intersection and Thompson said many people who both drive and walk there say the intersection is a hazard.
For years, Albemarle County, the city of Charlottesville and the Virginia Department of Transportation planned for a southern extension of Hillsdale Drive between Greenbrier Drive and Hydraulic Road. The ribbon was cut on the $29.6 million project in late January, shortly after the city wrapped up its management of the project.
“The city is excited to have this roadway fully open to the public to provide a new, multi-modal alternative to U.S. Route 29,” said Alexander Ikefuna, Charlottesville’s director of neighborhood development services.
Before construction on the road began in the summer of 2016, many residents and businesses in the area had thought the intersection of Greenbrier Drive and Hillsdale Drive would be controlled by a four-way traffic light.
When the concept was engineered into a plan, however, a study that looked at projected traffic volumes concluded that the intersection did not warrant a light. Those standards are governed by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
Instead, traffic on Greenbrier Drive must halt at a stop sign while vehicles on Hillsdale Drive flow freely through the intersection.
Thompson and others had argued there would be wrecks. On the evening of Feb. 3, a vehicle traveling northbound on Hillsdale Drive collided with another vehicle heading east on Greenbrier Drive.
According to crash data provided on VDOT’s website, there have been about 15 wrecks on the county’s portion of Hillsdale Drive on its former alignment since 2010, with three of those located in the vicinity of its intersection with Greenbrier Drive.
That contrasts with more than two dozen incidents at Hillsdale’s northern terminus, including one fatality in May 2013.
Thompson and others are hoping to prevent a death at Hydraulic and Greenbrier. Ikefuna said the city is listening.
“There have been complaints from citizens concerning sight distance at the intersection of Hillsdale Drive and Greenbrier Drive,” Ikefuna said. “While sight distance minimums have been met in all directions of travel, the city is adding additional advisory striping to aid in left-hand turns from Greenbrier Drive onto Hillsdale and to outline the travel lane on Hillsdale Drive.”
Since Hillsdale opened to traffic, VDOT has installed placards below the stop signs on Greenbrier that warn motorists that “cross traffic does not stop.”
VDOT will conduct another traffic study in March to see if a signal is warranted.
The Feb. 3 crash will not move up that timeline, according to Ikefuna.
“Infrastructure was put in place for the future traffic light should the warrants change,” Ikefuna said. “Foundations of mast arms, pedestrian poles, signal equipment, power source and conduit were installed.”
The administrator of VDOT’s Charlottesville office is also aware of the concerns of residents and businesses.
“I do not necessarily agree that a signal will make this intersection safer but I will have a better understanding after we study this in March,” wrote Joel Denunzio in a Jan. 26 email to Thompson.
Thompson said many Senior Center members have told him that the intersection is a hazard. He is awaiting the results of the traffic study.
“Since VDOT disagrees at this point, all the neighbors continue to work with them on improving sight lines, which is the primary issue everyone experiences,” Thompson said. “We also encourage everyone to drive at or below the posted 25 mph speed limit and to be extra careful when using the new road. This is a neighborhood first and foremost.”
A resident of the Branchlands neighborhood said that speeding continues to be a big problem.
“Twenty-five mph does not resonate with many people in Charlottesville,” said Nancy Hunt. “I hope that the police will continue to spend some time in the intersection and issue some speeding tickets. Word will get out eventually.”