The Proposed Eastern Bypass
At a community meeting on May 13 at Chopping Bottom Farm, Peter Taylor and Tony Vanderwarker hosted Dan Holmes and Rex Linville of the Piedmont Environmental Council who outlined preliminary plans for a road going from Exit 129 on 64 up along the railroad right-of-way to Culpeper. A legislator from Danville submitted the bill and fortunately it was quickly voted down in the 2018 session. But he vows to bring it up again next year.
While the PEC doesn’t think the road will ever be built since it doesn’t have wide support and the legislature and VDOT maintain the area has received enough spending for the work on 29, they see the interest in the bypass as a symptom of the problems on 22/231. In addition to the people downstate who are determined to get another route through Albemarle, Peter Taylor made the point that the increased traffic and fatalities on 22/231 have attracted the attention both of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and VDOT.
At some point, Peter maintained, because of increasing traffic from Orange and surrounding counties down the road into Charlottesville, the BOS and VDOT will eventually be compelled to improve the road. “Improve” in VDOT’s parlance means to make the road faster, straighter and wider. While the conservation easements up and down the road most likely preclude four-laning the road, the state-maintained right-of-way on the shoulders could allow VDOT to widen and straighten the road, dramatically altering its character and possibly increasing traffic.
The conclusion of the discussion was that the Keswick community needs to come up with plans to make 22/231 safer and enlist the support of our representative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the BOS and VDOT to preclude VDOT taking action on their own.
The improvements on Route 50 running from D.C, west through Gilbert’s Corner, Middleburg, Aldie and Upperville serve as a example of potential opportunities we can take advantage of to make 22/231 safer. A traffic management approach called “traffic calming” uses physical design and other measures to slow traffic and make driving safer such as rumble strips, roundabouts and speed signs. Other ideas to reduce traffic on the road include ride-sharing, bus service and staggering work hours at UVa.
Keswick residents funded a traffic study a while ago and we could adopt some of the ideas from that study to help make the road safer.
Peter and I along with other community members will be working with the PEC to develop plans and make presentations to the CTB, BOS and VDOT.
Meanwhile Over on the Keswick Side of Town…
While we didn’t have the raging streams, swept away cars or deaths like they did in Ivy, we had our own little catastrophe in Keswick. A tandem logging truck was coming up the S-turn in front of Horseshoe Hill when the driver (who was probably going too fast) over-corrected and went into the ditch just pass the Tall Oaks farm entrance. The load of large logs caused the tractor-trailer to tumble onto its right side taking out a dogwood and six sections of fence before it came to a stop. The logs spilled out over the downed fence and into the field. The driver suffered shoulder burns from the exhaust as he climbed out the driver’s side door but otherwise he was okay.
VDOT and the police closed 231 from Black Cat to Cismont from 12:30 to 4 PM, funneling traffic onto Black Cat and back up 231 or 22 from Cismont. Only local traffic from houses north of the accident were allowed to go down the road. Although later in the afternoon, they did allow local traffic past Black Cat. By 4 PM, the road was back to normal, though the logs lying in the field, gashes in the right-of-way and busted fences were a sorry sight.
We had the unique experience of walking up 231 on Friday afternoon with not a car in sight. Never having walked over the bridge over Choppjng Bottom Branch, we read a plaque that said: “Widened in 1978”. Forty years since VDOT has done major work on 231. Let’s hope we can prevent them from doing more work in the future (see accompanying article).
By midday Saturday, the logs were gone and traffic was back to normal.
Taking History Apart and Rebuilding It For the Next Hundred Years…
As the renovation on the Hunt Club proceeds, there are a number of calls that have to be made on the fly—like what to do with the ancient rattan couch from the ladies’ room? A fixture for almost a century, its rattan is faded, its seat is rumpsprung with collapsed springs but since its been in the Hunt Club forever, should it be tossed into the dumpster or preserved? The crew doing the cleanout actually deliberated for a good fifteen minutes before heaving it over porch railing into the waiting dumpster.
So what about the pot-bellied stove? With a new heating system, it won’t be needed but to many Hunt Clubbers, it’s a beloved relic that’s kept people warm (and often overcooked) for years. Some say it’s an outdated eyesore that has no business in the renovated club. Others are holding firm that it’s a treasured part of the club’s history. So far, it’s a keeper along with the stuffed foxes, tarnished trophies, wagon wheel chandeliers, naugahyde-garnished bar and Larry’s boot lamps.
Okay, so the former storeroom and kitchen have been turned into additional space for dining and entertaining. Archways mirroring the arches on the opposite wall (over the windowed bay) have been cut in on each side of the fireplace to open the club to the new area. But what about the aged and weathered bead board walls? Though some of the board needs to be torn down, it will be replaced with identical bead board carefully stained to replicate the original.
So far, everyone who has checked out the work agrees that the renovation retains the cherished character of the club while making it larger and more comfortable with HVAC, updated loos, a spanking new kitchen, handicapped accessible entrance, enlarged parking areas, and down-the-line when funded, much-needed rebuilds of the barn, kennel and huntsman’s cottage.
Oh, and there’s a new wrinkle, off the porch to the right side of the club, a large terrace at the same level as the porch will be added. Remember how crowded the porch used to be at warm-weather events? Now we’ll be able to swarm out onto the terrace and even tent it for outside events.
The board deserves a lot of credit for initiating the renovation and holding to its commitment to preserving the club’s character. Peter Taylor is hosting a hardhat walk-through on July 19 at 6 PM to take members through the progress of the renovation and answer questions. And hopefully accept donations from members to insure that all aspects of the project will be completed.