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Local group calls Route 29 changes unneeded

Traffic study says demand to not increase

SMART29, a coalition of business owners and neighbors near the planned Route 29 tunnel under Rio Road, released a traffic study regarding the grade separate on the Route 29 Rio Road area at a recent conference.

The citizen group formed in opposition to the Rio Road Project at Route 29, which was approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board last June. This project is a part of the three-part Route 29 solutions package, which would funnel traffic through Rio Road to lessen congestion.

Much opposition to this plan comes from business and homeowners in the area whom the project would most affect. Conducted by Dexter Williams of DRW Consultants, the study aimed to look at whether there is a need for the grade separation in this area.

One of the reasons for this separation is the development of a traffic signal-free-travel for through traffic from Fashion Square, Rio Road and Albemarle Square, which would allow commuters to travel at faster speeds. Smart29 said this would address traffic growth. The study, however, showed traffic growth is no longer occurring.

Williams looked traffic report studies and annual VDOT information and government surveys of the arterial area. He reported that increased operation speeds of two miles per hour would lead to a one minute travel time reduction.

Historically, there has been a constant growth in traffic in most suburban areas up until the last five or seven years, when the trend began to change, Williams said.

“Every time I’ve done a trend analysis, they’ve showed declining traffic,” Williams said. “The proposal for this grade separation in particular is a solution for future growth that isn’t happening.”

SMART29 members expressed concerned about the construction causing damage to adjacent properties.

“Homeowners, commuters and business will not have to [the] opportunity to prepare for the construction that is coming,” said Mike Basile, president of the Jefferson Area Tea Party said.

Basile said the $81 million in taxpayer money already spent on the project could have been spent more efficiently.

“If this is not a good solution [for] the transit problems on 29 that is wasted money the taxpayers have to pay for,” Basile said.

Williams also looked at other areas of the state and how much traffic these regions carry. In Richmond, there are six lanes of traffic which carry more traffic than Route 29 Hydraulic to Rio — and he said that system appears to be working well.

Williams’ study and SMART29 both said it was not beneficial to create a grade separation.

“It’s already working well, and it’s not a problem in my estimation that needs to be fixed,” Williams said.