Albemarle Supervisors affirm "Route 29 Solutions"
"There was no input from the community,” Boyd says
“When it comes down to the specifics of the construction it’s in VDOT’s hands but [road] alignment is a local decision,” Sheffield said. “Major aspects of projects still have to go through public hearings and be decided on a local level.”
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted 5-1 to send a resolution to the Virginia Department of Transportation affirming the community’s backing of a plan known as Route 29 Solutions. The plan will improve the way traffic flows along one of the most congested areas of the busy north-west corridor.
At a price tag of roughly $230 million, Route 29 Solutions is actually a package containing multiple alterations to the areas of Route 29 just north of the University, which include extensions of Berkmar and Hillsdale Drives and a Rio Road interchange, as well as the addition of lanes and a Best Buy ramp. Missing from the resolution is the contentious and long-debated Western Bypass, which led to Rivanna District Supervisor Ken Boyd’s sole dissenting vote.
Boyd, who originally brought the proposal to the Board, expressed his dismay at the removal of the bypass in the final proposal, which he dismissed as a “cheer” from the the board to VDOT. Citing a Weldon Cooper Center poll, Boyd said the community was actually overwhelmingly in favor of a bypass.
According to the survey, nearly 70 percent of respondents considered the bypass a necessity. Boyd said the advice of the community-led advisory committee to the Board went unheeded.
“There was no input from the community,” he said.
Boyd, who said his colleagues voted “for an expressway instead of a bypass,” added that the latest proposal removes two lights from Route 29 instead of the 13 that would be removed by rerouting the road. According to Boyd, the Western Bypass would help businesses and divert heavy truck traffic — all at the same cost to the taxpayers as the altered proposal adopted this week.
“Charlottesville and Gainesville are the only two cities on 29 that do not have a bypass,” he said.
Rio District Supervisor Brad Sheffield, who voted in favor of the proposal, said the community had a large voice in crafting the proposal and VDOT would have very little discretion on the bigger aspects of the proposal.
“When it comes down to the specifics of the construction, it’s in VDOT’s hands, but [road] alignment is a local decision,” Sheffield said. “Major aspects of projects still have to go through public hearings and be decided on a local level.”
Sheffield said there was no doubt traffic levels along the US 29 corridor are on the rise, but he did not think a bypass was a viable solution. He said more accidents, increased safety concerns, growth in population and expanding commercial development of the county were problems best addressed with a scalpel rather than the more cumbersome bypass approach.
“The best way to frame it is that when the federal government passed down its review of the Western Bypass, it found it was no longer meeting the needs of the community, so VDOT had to reexamine the projects to help with congestion,” he said.
Sheffield said the no-excuses, targeted end date for the project is fall 2017.