By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Monday, September 26, 2011

VDOT engineer John Giometti explains one of the concepts for a northern terminus which would use two traffic signals and a “diverging diamond”

A task force convened by Supervisor

Kenneth C. Boyd

has told the Virginia Department of Transportation how they would like to see a northern terminus for the

Western Bypass

designed, but they have received no guarantees that their recommendations will be incorporated into the request for proposals that will be issued later this week.

“I implore VDOT to include these recommendations in the initial RFP and/or any subsequent amendments,” said David Shifflet, a task force member who serves as the president of the

Forest Lakes Community Association


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The task force has met twice with VDOT officials and made four basic recommendations.

First, they want to ensure the terminus stays on the west side of U.S. 29 and south of Ashwood Boulevard. Second, they want the footprint to be as small as possible and to have no impact on the existing at-grade intersection of U.S. 29 and Ashwood. Third, they do not want any at-grade interchanges or traffic lights. Fourth, they did not want to allow any u-turns.

“Task force members were unanimous in their support of these recommendations,” Shifflet said “We feel their inclusion into the design requirements of the northern terminus by VDOT is imperative to protect the entrance ways of the Forest Lakes and Hollymead communities.”

At a town hall meeting Monday night, Shifflet said VDOT has been receptive to the recommendations but are unable to guarantee they will be incorporated into the parameters that would be issued as part of the RFP when it is released later this week.

Harold Jones, Jr., a VDOT location and design engineer from Culpeper who is serving as the project manager for the bypass, told the audience that the highway will be planned and constructed using a design-build approach.

“In this format, contractors are involved early on in the design process so their valuable input can be on the front-end to try to come up with a better solution before the final design is complete,” Jones said.

Jones said his job was to receive public input and pass them on to his superiors at VDOT who will make the final call on the parameters of the RFP.

“There will be a decision, beyond me, about what will be included and what won’t be based on public input,” Jones said.  ‘We appreciate all the input we have gotten and it’s being made known throughout [VDOT].  As part as defining the parameters by which the RFP will be issued, some may be incorporated and some may not be.”

After a lengthy question and answer period, VDOT engineers unveiled two conceptual drawings for what the northern terminus might look like. They stressed these were not directives to potential bidders.

“It’s important to figure out what exactly will work and won’t work,” said VDOT engineer John Giometti. “What we’ve done is try to take some of this initial public feedback and see if [requests] can even be accommodated from an engineering standpoint.”

One of the concepts displayed would use two new traffic lights south of Ashwood Boulevard to help traffic navigate a “diverging diamond” design that would briefly see traffic travel on the other side of the road in order to accommodate the bypass on-ramps. VDOT is planning to build the first of these in Virginia at Zion’s Crossroads.

“That would be a small footprint and low-cost because there would not be any bridge structures included in the interchanges,” Giometti said.

However, Giometti said task force members did not like the idea of new traffic lights, so a second conceptual design was created to show how the bypass could connect to U.S. 29 via grade-separated interchanges.

“This [second] design appears to incorporate the recommendations of the task force,” Shifflet said. “I hope they’re listening. We’re the ones who have to drive up and down this road every day.”

VDOT engineer Harold Jones Jr. explains the other conceptual alternative

Giometti said bidders will not be restricted to the concepts. However, the exact parameters of the RFP will not be known until it is advertised later this week.

Ann Thornber, a member of the task force, said she was happy to have participated in the process because she said it will result in a better road for Forest Lakes.

“We didn’t want any more stoplights,” Thornber said. “We’re going to be pushing and will keep in touch,” Thornburgh said.

Russell “Mac” Lafferty, an Albemarle County Planning Commissioner and member of the CHART committee, said he was concerned that public input from the task force was not going to be included in the initial RFP.

“They are saying that the first chance to really give public input will be in November,” Lafferty said. “By then, much of the design process may be completed.”

Giometti said the southern interchange would also be designed by the winning contractor and could result in a smaller footprint than the one designed in 1997.

“A three-story flyover ramp is not something that the community has ever been thrilled with so that’s one of the things we’re hoping we can eliminate,” Giometti said.

He added that could mean traffic lights at the southern interchange, but the exact design will not be known until VDOT issues an award.


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