By Sean Tubbs
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
passed a resolution Wednesday asking the Virginia Department of Transportation to conduct studies and hold a series of meetings before construction of the
of U.S. 29 begins late next year.
Two supervisors opposed to the bypass had hoped the resolution would request that VDOT conduct the studies earlier in the planning process, but failed in their efforts.
“A whole lot of people have an interest in making certain that the road has as little impact on the community as possible while still providing a transportation benefit,” said Supervisor
Dennis S. Rooker
Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton has said he intends by the end of this month to
issue a request for proposals
for a contractor both to finish the design and to build the 6.2-mile roadway. VDOT hopes to award the contract in January.
Rooker and Supervisor
Ann H. Mallek
asked the board Wednesday to request that VDOT take a series of steps before either of those events occur.
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Those steps include an evaluation of new traffic data, consideration of the health effects of having the highway pass close to schools and conducting meetings with citizens to help mitigate the impact of the road in the county.
Supporters of the bypass questioned the motives of the resolution.
“What [we] have here is a document written by people who are opposed to the bypass,” said Supervisor
Kenneth C. Boyd
. “We know that VDOT has said this is going to be a design-build project. We know that they are going to do environmental studies.”
“I think it’s important we don’t jump in the middle of a train that is going down the road,” said Supervisor
Lindsay G. Dorrier
. He said VDOT’s design-build approach would speed up the road so it would not take decades to build.
However, Rooker said the resolution was a way to allow the county to have some input into the process.
“I think our people want to understand how much impact that train is going to have and have a little input into what’s coming toward them before it’s built,” Rooker said.
Two versions of the resolution failed on 2-4 votes, with all supervisors but Mallek and Rooker voting against.
A motion that asked for the studies to be done before construction was adopted unanimously.
The resolution also asked if VDOT would consider a lower design speed to see if the size of the northern and southern termini could be reduced. Rooker said that might also lower the cost of the road.
Thomas did not agree.
“The road is being built to move traffic and not to be a parkway,” Thomas said.
However, that language was included as part of the approved resolution.
Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center said he was disappointed that the initial resolution was not approved.
“The resolution that was ultimately passed is meaningless,” Butler said. “This project has been rushed through the approval process from the get-go. It’s critical we get updated accurate information about this project on the table before the state issues a request for proposal or enters into a contract.”
In other news, supervisors voted unanimously to approve the issuance of $6.835 million in bonds to pay for the renovation of Greer Elementary School as well as other school maintenance projects. The bonds will be issued through the Virginia Public School Authority.