By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

will consider a resolution next week that will outline further requirements for a request for proposals for design and construction of the

Western Bypass of U.S. 29


“We need to make certain that if it is done, it is done in a way that has the traffic improvement that was originally talked about,” said Supervisor

Dennis S. Rooker

, an opponent of the road.

VDOT released a 179-page RFP late last month and will issue the first of two addendums in November that will give further instructions to bidders. The Commonwealth Transportation Board will award the project to the lowest bidder next June.

Supervisors had two lengthy discussions on the bypass over the course of Wednesday’s all-day meeting.

During the public comment period, several speakers expressed their view that the project has been rushed forward.

County resident and realtor Laney Kaminer said she did not understand how the RFP could have been issued before certain pieces of information are known.

“VDOT doesn’t have any updated engineered drawings since 1997, does not know what the termini will look like, does not know what the road will cost and does not know the environmental impact on the community,” Kaminer said. “What’s the rush?”


Duane E. Snow

urged citizens to be patient.

“We won’t know a lot of these things that we’re throwing out as facts until we get the environmental study back and all the [traffic] modeling is done,” Snow said. “Once everything is done and the estimates start coming in, then we’ll start to have something we can discuss.”

Jeff Werner of the

Piedmont Environmental Council

said people are upset because they do not trust

assurances by Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton that the project will cost no more the official estimate of $244.5 million

. VDOT engineers calculated a much higher figure.

“The curious thing about the estimates is that the chief engineer wrote he was not comfortable with the district estimates,” Werner said. “The result of the [central office] estimates were two to three times what the district engineer estimated. They say it’s for a new design, but in [VDOT] emails there is no mention of an alternative design.”

However Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd said estimates produced by VDOT’s central office are “speculative.”

“It’s a design-build project which is designed to bring it in at less cost,” Boyd said. “The design-build is supposed to come back in December so we’ll know some actual figures then. Part of the problem is that VDOT may not be the best experts on building roads.”


also reminded the public that

the board passed a resolution in mid-September

that asked VDOT not to begin construction until traffic studies and the environmental review is complete.

“We are watching and working closely with VDOT,” Boyd said. “This project is far from being settled. If it does come at twice the cost, as some people would like to believe it will,…we would have to completely rethink the whole project.”

VDOT engineers developed this concept for the northern terminus that follows the recommendations of the task force. Bidders do not currently have to follow those guidelines to qualify. (Click to enlarge)

At the end of the meeting, Boyd announced he would introduce a resolution next week formally requesting that the addendum include

recommendations for the northern terminus made by a task force

he convened in late August.

The task force said it wants the interchange not to have traffic lights, to intersect south of Ashwood Boulevard and to be built solely on the western side of U.S. 29.

Rooker suggested the resolution also state the county insists that both interchanges have a level of service of at least a C, an engineering term which means traffic is continuously moving.

“One of the highest cost items in the original estimate is the southern interchange,” Rooker said. He added that bidders would save money by shrinking the interchanges or by signalizing them, which he said would add to traffic congestion.

“[VDOT is] going to take the low bid and the contractor can do whatever he wants to do as long as he stays in the right-of-way,” Rooker said.


Ann H. Mallek

wanted the resolution to insist on assurances that no houses along the right of way would be demolished until the project is fully reviewed. Because it is a state agency, VDOT does not need to ask the county for a demolition permit.

Rooker asked staff to prepare a report on the RFP so the board can make other suggestions.

“In this RFP, they mention specifically signalized termini, they mention the potential for at-grade termini, they mention the potential for 24-hours [a day] construction,” Rooker said. “We need to be protected.”

Supervisors will consider the resolution at a work session next Wednesday afternoon. The regularly scheduled night meeting has been canceled.


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