Boyd departs meeting as Supervisors discuss U.S. 29 plans
The lone Albemarle Supervisor opposed to a grade-separated interchange at the intersection of U.S. 29 and Rio Road walked out of a meeting in protest late Wednesday night.
Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd had presented a resolution which included a passage calling on VDOT to build the extensions of Berkmar Drive and Hillsdale Drive before beginning construction on the $81 million grade-separated interchange at Rio Road.
However, VDOT’s current plan is to pay a bonus to the eventual contractor if they are able to complete the Rio project by the summer of 2016. More than $200 million worth of construction projects are moving forward to alleviate congestion in the U.S. 29 corridor.
“This project is moving very, very quickly and in my mind I think it’s time our board went on record saying we want to be involved with this process,” Boyd said. “There’s been a lot of discussion about the sequencing [of these projects] and for the life of me I don’t understand why we would not want to build the parallel roads before we start on the Rio Road interchange.”
“There’s a lot of good stuff in there, and then there’s that sour pill at the end that I can’t swallow,” Sheffield said.
Boyd said he was concerned that the project has been orchestrated by state government.
“I think the marching orders are to ram this thing through as fast as they can, and I don’t think the public is engaged in it,” Boyd said.
Similar statements were made in years past by opponents of the U.S. 29 Western Bypass which Boyd and the previous administration in Richmond supported.
Sheffield, assistant director of JAUNT, said building the Rio Road interchange made transportation sense to him. The two got into an argument over current traffic patterns, traffic studies, and the nature of using design-build contracts. Other supervisors also joined in.
“I trust this process,” said Supervisor Jane Dittmar.
As the discussion passed 11:15 p.m., Boyd got increasingly frustrated and explained he just wanted to make sure the Albemarle board had some control over what would happen, as opposed to government officials in Richmond.
“I fully support that, but there is some wording in your resolution [I can’t support],” Sheffield said.
Prior to the meeting, Sheffield and Supervisor Diantha McKeel had revised his resolution with their suggestions, but Boyd said he refused to vote on something he had not had time to review.
Boyd also refused to amend his resolution and made a motion that it be adopted as is.
When no other Supervisor seconded his motion, Boyd left the auditorium in protest.
“I am going home because I am not going to sit here and [discuss] a resolution that has not been presented to us three days in advance as our rules call for,” Boyd said before he left the dais.
Boyd’s resolution was included in the board’s advance meeting materials and made available to the public in advance of the meeting. Supervisors then debated whether they should adopt any motion. Sheffield said they should.
“I think the expectation has been that this board is going to vote on a resolution, and now we’re not going to, and I think we’re being set up here,” Sheffield said. “We’re going to take hits for not wanting to make sure the community’s engaged, and that’s just a flat-out lie that’s going to be told.”
Dittmar said she thought they should delay passing the resolution until later in the month because of the late hour. Supervisors will now add an extra half-hour to a meeting later this month to further discuss the resolution.
Earlier in the meeting, supervisors heard other details about the various projects that are being planned in the U.S. 29 corridor.
Sheffield serves on the Route 29 Project Delivery Advisory Panel and he updated supervisors on the body’s progress.
VDOT will hold a location hearing on the Berkmar Drive Extended project September 16.
“This will be line on the map where Berkmar Drive will be located,” Sheffield said. “This is not the design of it, but the black line on the map where the most logical location as well.”
To stay on the timetable, VDOT is hoping to get the Commonwealth Transportation Board to approve an alignment in October.
Sheffield suggested supervisors might want to make a resolution endorsing one of the alignments to help influence that decision.
A design public hearing on the grade-separated interchange and the $51 million widening of U.S 29 between Polo Grounds Road and Hollymead Town Center will be held in November. The one for Berkmar will be held next summer.
Some members of the panel have called for Berkmar Drive to be connected to Ashwood Boulevard to better integrate the new road into the county’s street network. VDOT has so far not considered this as a possibility, though Sheffield said it’s called for in the Places29 Master Plan.
“I think we need to get some defined public input on this and make sure it is not controversial,” Sheffield said.
County staff is also trying to ensure that the Architectural Review Board has the opportunity to review the design for the bridge used in the Rio Road interchange given that it is located in an entrance corridor.
“[We want] to try to make sure that the ARB gets a chance to comment and advise on landscaping and also structure design as we get into this,” said Mark Graham, the county’s director of community development.
“I don’t know if VDOT will take any of the recommendations from this board, but I think [Supervisors] should give direction to the ARB to review all the plans and provide appropriate comments,” Sheffield said.
With additional reporting from the meeting by Brian Wheeler