VDOT holds public forum on planned bypass improvements

City hears public concerns, considers proposal for bypass; construction to begin in 2015


The Virginia Department of Transportation held a public forum Tuesday evening to hear community comments about proposed improvements to the U.S. 29/U.S. 250 Bypass Interchange. The $11.15 million project will encompass nearly a mile of roadway from the Barracks Road Interchange to the area south of Hydraulic Road.

Though the time frame may be subject to change, public awareness efforts on the details of the project will begin in fall 2014, and construction will begin in spring 2015.

The project is expected to “improve traffic operations, reduce delays and enhance safety” along the selected route, according to department officials. Among proposed improvements are the addition of a southbound lane along U.S. 29, a sidewalk in the widened median, and the construction of a second lane along the westbound entrance ramp onto the U.S. 250 Bypass, according to official documents.

About $1.75 million, taken both from state and federal funds, went to engineering of roadway plans for the project.

Department representatives were present to answer questions, and community members were able to submit either written or oral comments for later review by project officials.

The Baltimore-based consulting firm RK&K had already presented plans for the project at a community meeting in June. Kristie Dubay, an RK&K consultant, said Tuesday’s forum was designed to allow people to express any concerns surrounding the proposed construction, which would be taken into account as the project moves forward.

Several aspects of the project need to be signed off on and specific time windows need to be met before it can progress, department official Rick Rohm said. “People don’t realize even though this is a small project we have to get all of the funding and adhere to all the federal regulations,” he said.

Officials first need to request the right to use portions of three parcels of privately-owned land to construct a right-of-way lane and to provide construction teams with more room while working.

A median in the construction area will be widened to provide a pathway for residents to cross the bypass. In previous years, residents in nearby neighborhoods expressed concern about not being able to cross the street. After a recent resident survey showed 63 percent of 24 pedestrian respondents required a safe pathway, the City of Charlottesville decided to propose the new sidewalk.

About $8.9 million is expected to go toward construction, including the addition of noise barriers to lessen the decibel impact of increased traffic. Residents in areas adjacent to proposed construction sites had previously expressed concern about noise that would accompany increases in traffic.

Jim Johnston, a representative from a church adjacent to the areas slated to be affected, said the noise levels remain a major concern of residents. “The question is how much of an annoyance will it be to residents and what will the cost be [to fix it],” he said.

The department conducted a preliminary noise study on areas near construction sites and determined where it would be most effective to build the barriers, said Lovejoy Muchenje, a department engineer who specializes in noise abatement. Federal regulations state decibel levels must not exceed 66 decibels — requirements Muchenje said would be met once barriers were put in place.

A final plan for the barriers, including materials used and cost, will be established after a final study is conducted, Muchenje said. “At this stage it’s a preliminary stage, so we don’t know what the walls will be made of,” he said. “We take into account different elevations [and] types of traffic.”

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