Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO grows to include Crozet

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The newly approved expanded boundaries of the Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO, which now includes Crozet—but stops at the county lines. Image courtesy of Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. The newly approved expanded boundaries of the Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO, which now includes Crozet—but stops at the county lines. Image courtesy of Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.

The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Policy Board voted unanimously last week to redraw its boundaries to include Crozet, an expansion officials say could mean more federal dollars for public transit linking Western Albemarle to the area’s urban core.

Like its nearly 350 counterparts across the country—cross-governmental organizations tasked with long-term regional transportation—the MPO was tasked with reassessing its scope in the wake of the 2010 census, and was encouraged to fold in nearby growth areas. According to a proposal from the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), the new census data showed concentrated growth in four clusters, all about equidistant from Charlottesville’s urban core: Crozet, Lake Monticello in Fluvanna County, and Twin Lakes and Ruckersville in Greene County.

Staff initially intended to annex all four of the clusters, growing the MPO beyond the borders of Albemarle County for the first time. But Greene and Fluvanna said no thanks. In the end, the MPO Policy Board unanimously agreed to expand the planning area only within the confines of Albemarle’s borders. Its new map closes the gap between the county’s central urbanized area and Crozet and includes almost the entire length of I-64 through Albemarle. Two new sections also flank the 29 corridor to the north.

“The boundary extension is more a bureaucratic thing than anything else,” said TJPDC Director Steve Williams. Expanding the map isn’t going to have a direct affect on development or county policy, he said. But it means the new areas will get a seat at the table, so to speak, when the MPO plans for long-term transportation projects.

For the urbanized center of Crozet, whose only direct link to Charlottesville is scenic Route 250, that’s unlikely to mean road improvements, Williams said. What it could mean is more chances for federal money to support public transit in western Albemarle. The area currently sees only two JAUNT shuttle runs a day. “We think as Crozet continues to grow, there will be a growing need for transit there,” Williams said, and the first step is putting it on the map.

Tom Loach says he’ll believe it when he sees it. Loach represents the White Hall district on the Albemarle County Planning Commission, which he chairs, and was closely involved in the creation of the Crozet Master Plan.

“I think it’s a reasonable approach because of the growth in the western part of the county,” Loach said. “But there’s a big difference between planning and reality. You wonder what’s going to come out of including us in the MPO when essentially, there’s no money for transportation.”

And what of Ruckersville and Lake Monticello, both of which have populations exceeding Crozet’s? The federal government created MPOs to encourage a regional approach to transportation planning, but for now, the rapidly expanding communities just over the county line won’t officially be part of the conversation.

Williams said the MPO is headed in that direction, but the wheels of cooperative government processes move slowly. “We’re going through the same process with those areas as we’ve gone through with Crozet,” he said, which became a bigger part of the regional planning process more than a decade ago. “We’ll start more actively engaging with them over the course of the next 10 years.”

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