By

Sean Tubbs



Charlottesville Tomorrow

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Virginia Department of Transportation has issued the first addendum to a request for proposals for firms to both design and build the U.S. 29 Western Bypass in Albemarle County.

“A number of the things we requested will not be included, such as reduction of design speed and project budgets for noise abatement and landscaping,” said county Supervisor

Dennis S. Rooker

.

Rooker chaired a task force this fall that asked for more than two dozen specific requests for how the road should be built. The recommendations of Rooker’s task force

were endorsed by the Board of Supervisors earlier this month

.

Requests that construction be limited to 12 hours a day and that construction noise not exceed 80 decibels were not included in the addendum.

The task force had also asked that the road be built with a design speed of 50 mph, but the RFP continues to ask companies to design it for a speed of 60 mph.

However, other recommendations were included, such as a requirement that the two termini not have traffic lights and not use U-turns or roundabouts.







Supervisor

Rodney S. Thomas

said he was not surprised that many of the recommendations were not included at this time.

“I’m sure that the state is going to incorporate as much as they can out of the requests,” Thomas said.

Thomas was glad the design speed would remain at 60 mph.

“This road will be built to move traffic and not to be a parkway,” he said.

All four of the recommendations made by Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd’s task force are incorporated in the addendum, including a specification that the northern terminus be entirely on the western side of U.S. 29 and south of Ashwood Boulevard.

Rooker said in an email to his task force that he was disappointed that requirements for landscaping were dropped from the project.

“[VDOT administrator James Utterback] said that it is possible that landscaping may get pulled out and become a separate project, which would be fine if it actually happens and the budget for that project is sufficient, but we have no assurance of that,” Rooker said.

Also removed is language that requires companies to develop cost estimates for work to satisfy the National Environment Protection Act, work done to avoid impacts on threatened and endangering species and noise mitigation.

A specification in the RFP that the grade over Stillhouse Mountain be no more than 4.5 percent has also been deleted. The maximum grade allowed on the bypass will be 6 percent and it will be designed to handle 74,000 vehicles a day.

Rooker’s task force did influence the addendum. There is now language that requires protection of existing structures at the southern terminus.

“The Design-Builder shall provide buffer area and minimize project construction impacts adjacent to University of Virginia Darden School of Business, UVA Law School, Canterbury Hills neighborhood, the St.Anne’s Belfield School campus, the Colonnades senior living facilities and Leonard Sandridge Road to the greatest extent practicable,” reads new language in the RFP.

The RFP now also states that the northern terminus must accommodate the future widening of U.S. 29 to six lanes between Polo Grounds Road and the Hollymead Town Center.

The project schedule has been amended because VDOT expects the Federal Highway Administration’s environmental assessment to last longer. The projected time at which the contractor will be given the notice to proceed has been delayed by a month to Oct. 31, 2012.

Another addition to the RFP is language that states VDOT will pay up to $100,000 to companies that submit a “responsive proposal” but that is not accepted.

A second addendum may be issued if necessary, but no specific date has been set. VDOT officials were not available for comment for this story.

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