VDOT Advisory Panel takes 29 Bypass off table
State lacks federal funding amid environmental concerns
“It’s a collection of interests and the collaboration between them can lead to solutions,” Shucet said of the Panel.
The $200 million plan to create the Western Bypass on Route 29 through Charlottesville has been shelved, said Philip Shucet, incoming chair of the Route 29 Advisory Panel.
The Federal Highway Administration said the project had not met the criteria necessary for environmental approvals in a February letter to the Virginia Department of Transportation, causing VDOT to question whether the bypass would ultimately be workable.
“If the bypass was to continue then, VDOT would basically have to start over with the environmental approvals process,” Shucet, a former VDOT chairman, said.
With the long-discussed bypass tabled, VDOT has assembled a 10-person advisory panel to create a new proposal which will address severe congestion on the 29th corridor in Charlottesville. Shucet will lead the panel of representatives from interested parties on the local, state and national level.
“It’s a collection of interests, and the collaboration between them can lead to solutions,” Shucet said.
The panel must also consider how their proposal would affect the local businesses, many of which profit off of traffic on the 29th corridor.
“Traffic that travels from one end of the 29th corridor in Charlottesville to the other represents about 15 percent of the total traffic,” Shucet said. “We’ve got to think about ways to take that 15 percent accrued traffic out of the mix of local traffic, move it through the corridor in a way that does not disrupt local traffic’s ability to access all of the commercial and business interests.”
Though a bypass is no longer being considered, the panel will have years of research and studies at their disposal as they examine how to best move forward. Still, there is concern the panel will not be able to find a comprehensive solution which stays under budget in such little time.
“We want to act quickly,” Shucet said. “While it’s certainly tight and will require a lot of work, I’m confident that we can come up with some reasonable concepts that make things better in the 29th corridor.”
The panel will present its proposal to VDOT May 14. A new plan would need to be approved by both VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration.