At Monticello High School all seniors participate in what is call a Citizen Action Plan (CAP) project as part of our government class. We work in groups to research and learn about an issue that is affecting our community. Our group decided to research the newest incarnation of the Western Bypass proposal.
The proposed Western 29 Bypass has been contested since its initial proposal in October of 1984, and it is only recently that the Albemarle Board of Supervisors has given VDOT the green light to move forward on this project.
In 2012, a new design was developed in an effort to lower costs and respond to changing construction practices. The current plan is said to cost around $244.6 million dollars (September 2011 estimate) and would run about 6.2 miles, from Forest Lakes South to the Route 29/250 Bypass near the University of Virginia. Construction would begin late 2013 and be completed in 2016. Skanska-Branch / JMT was awarded the construction contract.
Unfortunately, because the environmental assessment has been deemed outdated, the actual costs are still unknown.
For those who opposed the plan that was proposed by VDOT there is an alternative. The Southern Environmental Law Center is a group based in Charlottesville that has come up with an alternative solution to the Western 29 Bypass.
This plan, which they refer to as the “Go29” plan, is an update to the Places29 master plan that specifically targets the traffic problems on U.S. 29. The plan proposes that, to solve the traffic on 29, what’s needed isn’t a bypass, but a series of road extensions, road widening, overpasses and ramps.
While this may seem like a lot to do and looks possibly more expensive, the actual cost would be somewhere around $166.1 million dollars. This plan actually takes the environmental impact into consideration and targets key points of congestion in order to alleviate traffic as a whole. For more information about this plan there is a link at the bottom to a video that explains it in more detail.
We had the chance to look at both sides, to see the pros and cons of both plans. The Bypass would be built quicker and it would ultimately help the out of town traffic bypass congested parts of Charlottesville instead of being forced to go through the city.
The Go29 plan would take longer to build than the Bypass and it wouldn’t allow for an alternative route around the city, but it would make shopping easier by solving the traffic problems and therefore making it a more pleasurable trip. This would entice people to spend their money in that area. Thereby helping to build the local economy.
Yet when it came down to choosing which side we thought would be the most effective we looked at two things. One, the overall cost of each plan, and two, the overall efficiency of each plan, which would mean looking at the time it would take to build each plan and how effectively it would fix the traffic problems on 29.
Cost wise, the Go29 plan was the obvious choice, but in terms of time it would take to build and the issues with building what the plan entails on a busy road had to be taken into account.
In terms of time, the Bypass was the more sensible choice, it would only take three years to build and would not have the construction issues the Go29 plan would have. Yet when looking at the whole picture, one thing stood out a part from the rest, the Go29 plan would solve the traffic problems; the Western 29 Bypass could possibly worsen traffic in two different spots, and it doesn’t take into account the parts of U.S. 29 that it doesn’t bypass.
Because of this we were, and still are, of the opinion that the Go29 plan would be the better of the two plans to enact. It is an already environmentally conscious plan, it costs less, and the plan will be able to solve the traffic problems on U.S. 29. Even with the consideration of the construction issues we still found it to be the better plan.
For more information on the Go29 proposal, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtnSsd9AJrI