By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Virginia Department of Transportation will send out letters today to several Albemarle County property owners to inform them their land will soon be acquired for the Western Bypass of U.S. 29.

That was one of many details revealed to the

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

during a Wednesday briefing from VDOT officials.

James Utterback of VDOT

“No work has been done on this project since 2002 other than administrative updates for various things,” said

James Utterback

, administrator for VDOT’s Culpeper District. “There are still a lot of unanswered questions as we move forward.”

VDOT engineers are working to prepare a request for proposals to hire a firm to design and build the project.

“By the end of this month, we’ll be under way with the

environmental reevaluation

, right-of-way acquisition, initial public involvement, and we plan to issue the request for proposals,” project manager Harold Jones Jr. said.

“Proposals will be due by the end of the year with an expected award in the first quarter of calendar year 2012.”

Jones added that he anticipated the Federal Highway Administration would complete its review sometime in 2012 and he expects construction to begin by the end of that year.

“Public involvement for the reevaluation is not a requirement but we will incorporate that into the process due to the nature and the history of the project,” Jones said. “We will update traffic forecasts, and we will provide additional environmental studies such as air studies, noise studies [and] cultural resource studies.”

Download Jones’ presentation to the Supervisor

Before then, VDOT will hold a citizens information meeting next spring.

“The public involvement [meeting] is in the middle of the process so that information is available and we will have an opportunity to react to the public comment,” said Christopher Collins, VDOT’s project studies section head.


Ann H. Mallek

said she was concerned the contract would be awarded before the public had a meaningful chance to give input.

“The contract is going to be awarded for a certain amount [of money] before any of these public input meetings happen,” Mallek said.

VDOT map showing parcels that still status of right of way for southern portion of the bypass (Click to enlarge)

Before the briefing, Supervisor

Dennis S. Rooker

announced he would create an advisory committee consisting of citizens and business owners from the Jack Jouett District.

“Six of the seven schools impacted are in the

Jack Jouett District

, [and] seven neighborhoods are either bisected or have the bypass go right by it,” Rooker said. “There are a huge number of issues that will face the people of my district as this project moves forward … People want to have some mechanism to provide input.”

Utterback said that in November an addendum to the RFP will be issued incorporating public input from Rooker’s committee, as well as

another created by Supervisor

Kenneth C. Boyd

to provide input on the design for the northern terminus. Boyd said his task force will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. Sept. 26 at the County Office Building-Fifth Street.

Utterback said there might be opportunities to downsize the project’s footprint in some areas, including the southern terminus.

“These interchanges are significant and designed with high-speed ramps,” Utterback said. “There are some opportunities to look at that.”

Utterback stressed that public input would be crucial to the process.

“This is a complicated project and a complex process,” Utterback said. “With the environmental reevaluation, there is going to be some citizen involvement in the spring and we will have the opportunity if we have to mitigate anything out of the document. There is the potential there would be some design change opportunity.”

After the discussion, Rooker circulated a resolution requesting VDOT to put in writing what the public input opportunities would be. However, the board decided to postpone consideration of that resolution until its meeting next Wednesday.

Critics of the bypass said there would not be enough public input opportunities.


Cynthia Neff

, who is running against Boyd in November’s election, said she thinks the

Places29 Advisory Council

should have been consulted on the bypass.

“There is so much angst in our community about this bypass,” Neff said. “We have never been engaged in a discussion.”

Milton Moore of the

Charlottesville-Albemarle County Transportation Coalition

said the MPO should appoint a design committee.

However, Albemarle resident Corky Shackelford said he supports the bypass, even though the selected alignment would not be his first choice.

“It’s long overdue and it seems to me that anything that will take the trucks and through-traffic away from six miles of Emmet Street and Route 29 is worth doing,” Shackelford said.

The project now has an official estimated cost of $244 million — $20.8 million for preliminary engineering, $105 million for right of way and $118 million for construction. Jones said the project is fully funded in the current six-year plan.

Jeff Werner of the

Piedmont Environmental Council

said he thinks people should be aware of the funding source for some of the $197 million allocated to the project by the

Commonwealth Transportation Board

in July.

“It’s coming from the state borrowing against future federal funding,” Werner said. “That’s the thing we keep hearing fiscal conservatives are going to cut.”

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Charlottesville Tomorrow

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