Albemarle to hold public hearing on bypass alternatives
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors plans to hold a public hearing May 27 to get input on $203 million worth of transportation projects that have been recommended as alternatives to the defunct Western Bypass of U.S. 29.
The hearing will take place one day before the Metropolitan Planning Organization is slated to consider a resolution to endorse recommendations made by former Virginia Department of Transportation Commissioner Philip Shucet.
The alternatives include $54 million to extend Berkmar Drive across the South Fork Rivanna River, an additional $10 million to further extend Hillsdale Drive to Holiday Lane in Charlottesville, and $81 million to build a grade-separated intersection at Rio Road and U.S. 29.
The latter project is fiercely opposed by many businesses that operate along the corridor.
“What it’s going to do to the businesses along that whole stretch will be unbelievable,” said Carter Myers, owner of Colonial Auto, which is located near the intersection. He has fought the Rio Road grade-separated interchange for several decades.
“We figured it cost our business half a million dollars during a widening project in the early 1990’s,” he added. “We survived it but this is going to be worse than the widening.”
Supervisors had scheduled a time Wednesday to discuss Shucet’s solutions and to possibly pass a resolution endorsing the recommendations.
Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd, an interchange opponent, said he did not think that was appropriate.
“I would feel very uncomfortable doing that without some public input on that process before we do,” Boyd said.
However, Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said an endorsement of the alternatives would be an extension of a Feb. 19 public hearing at which the new board withdrew its support of the bypass.
“All of the things that we have seen discussed at the panel are items which are in our long-range transportation plan somewhere or in the Places29 recommendations,” Mallek said. “I feel as if we have had very good input all the way along.”
“We’re talking about building an interchange that will be a disruption to businesses,” Boyd said. He added people should have the chance to speak out before the board votes to direct its two representatives on the MPO Policy Board to authorize spending.
Board Chairwoman Jane Dittmar said she felt the board should send a signal to the Commonwealth Transportation Board that there’s local support for the recommendations, but not without letting everyone’s voice be heard.
“The other part we’re trying to balance is that this could be the beginning of the end of contention about roads in our community and to not have a public hearing to allow people who have passions about this particular plan might prevent us from beginning the healing,” Dittmar said.
The MPO plans to vote on a federally-mandated long-range transportation plan on May 28. That document will contain the Western Bypass because MPO staff could not amend it in time to meet a deadline from the Federal Highway Administration.
However, the long-range plan will be amended over the summer if the CTB decides to transfer money from the bypass to the alternatives. That body is scheduled to vote on the Shucet alternatives at its action meeting on June 18.
The MPO also will need to hold a public hearing before the alternatives can be placed within the long-range plan.
This week, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne said that has to occur by September in order to prevent the $200 million from being disbursed to other transportation projects across the state.
“The sooner we get that done, the better,” Dittmar said.
On June 4, Supervisors will hear details of a program that will provide support to businesses that will be affected by construction of the interchange.
Myers said customers will avoid the area during construction.
“Waynesboro will probably send you all thank you letters because you will put their shopping centers more in business,” he told the board.