NEWS- Staff's choice: Fourth Street likely for car crossing

After fed-up Downtown Mall merchants presented a petition to City Council asking for a one-year trial crossing on the east end of the Mall, Council instructed city staff to come up with a plan, and Fourth Street is the unofficial choice.

"That's what we're looking at," says City Manager Gary O'Connell. "We're trying to figure it out."

One of the possibilities is to make Fourth Street south of Water Street one-way. Vehicles crossing from Market Street could only turn right or left at Water, "so it can't be a cut through," says O'Connell.

"The issue is they don't want a cross street to be more than a cross street," says Bob Stroh, co-chair of the Downtown Business Association of Charlottesville, which has been lobbying for an east end Mall crossing since Sixth and Seventh streets were closed last year to make way for the Transit Center.

"I thought Fourth Street was the one that made the most sense," he says.

Stroh is confident City Council is going to approve the crossing at its April 3 meeting. At the February 21 meeting, "There was unanimous agreement that city staff come back to Council with a plan," says Stroh.

The crossing proposal did not fare as well with the Planning Commission on January 10. City staff recommended against the crossing, and the commissioners voted 5-2 against allowing cars on the east end of the Mall.

Now, says Stroh, "The real question is how quickly it can be implemented." And of the city staff's speed in making recommendations so far, "We're impressed."

"I doubt it will take real long," says O'Connell. "It's going to need a certain amount of signage so pedestrians know not to step in front of cars."

And, notes O'Connell, "It's already got curbs."

Stroh likes the ability to test Fourth Street. "This allows us to see if it works– and if it doesn't, we'd withdraw our support." Of course, he's pretty sure it's going to work.

Odds are on a Fourth Street mall crossing, according to City Manager Gary O'Connell.