Close-up of Skanska-Branch "flyover" option Credit: Credit: Virginia Department of Transportation

In advance of Election Day on November 5, Charlottesville Tomorrow will once again mail out in-depth nonpartisan voter guides, featuring exclusive one-on-one interviews with all the candidates for Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council.  In the weeks before the election, we will also feature their responses to important questions about their qualifications, priorities, and key quality of life issues so that our citizens can compare candidates’ answers and make an informed choice.

Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2013 Election Center website features links to the full written transcript and audio of candidate interviews, copies of our 2013 voter guide, information on where to vote, and more.  All the following passages are excerpts from our interviews.


Do you support the construction of the Western Bypass of U.S. 29? Why or why not?

Jack Jouett District

Diantha McKeel (I-Jack Jouett)

I am opposed to the design and location of the 29 bypass.  Every impartial report, and the Virginia Department of Transportation’s own report, concludes that the current configuration is not cost-effective, nor will it solve our traffic congestion.

At six miles long, it has taken 41 homes, that’s about seven per mile, it runs through seven neighborhoods impacting almost a thousand homes, closely skirts six schools taking 12 acres of school property.  At a cost of $300 million and climbing, it is a road project that should be completely retired. 

If the bypass is not built, we have to remove the targeted neighborhoods from under the 25-year threat.  These neighborhoods have endured enough.  Surrounding homes cannot be sold.  Property values have been suppressed and government-owned homes are in various states of disrepair.

We need to align land use and transportation plans to serve our current situation.  We should install the adaptive transportation system [for traffic signals] fix the Best Buy blockage and the ‘hourglass blockage’ on 29 north and build the parallel roads as planned.  We know these actions are cost-effective and there is general agreement in the community that they will work.  We need to maximize the infrastructure we have already paid for as well as improvements in other modes of transportation.

Regardless of your position on the bypass, there cannot be any more suspension of rules and forced midnight votes as occurred when the board of supervisors approved the project.  The board of supervisors should work to regain the trust of all of our citizens in a leadership process that is open and respectful regardless of the outcome of an individual vote.

Phillip Seay (I-Jack Jouett)

I am going to be short and to the point on this one. As I understand it, this is a done deal.  So we are going to move forward, and I am moving forward.  If elected, I will work hard to make sure that the impact of this construction is reduced on the landowners and business owners especially with noise, water runoff, to make sure that they are protected.  Because that was a concern of mine when this whole thing started.  You know my history with VDOT.  I could never get a straight answer as to how the property that I lived on, which was going to be impacted by this bypass, how it was going to be protected.  The public has got to be aware of that and be involved in that [to get answers to these questions].

So with that addressed, it’s just we need to make sure there’s no impact.  We are moving forward, and we need to take care of our property owners as we get this road built to make it the best road possible.

Rio District

Brad Sheffield (D-Rio)

From going door to door, the need for transportation improvements has definitely been the top topic discussed. However as transportation professional I do believe the Western Bypass will not meet our expectations for relieving traffic on US 29.

Further I would have never voted in such an unethical manner of which this was brought to the board to be voted on. But for now I think we need to start working and planning for how we are going to mitigate the negative impacts of the bypass and try to make sure that it is working and functional. And if the bypass is not built, we need to work equally as hard to provide residents with some tangible transportation solutions.

Rodney Thomas (R-Rio) * Incumbent

I would imagine that whoever hears this knows my stance on the Western Bypass.  There’s no question I support the Western Bypass which I am calling an internal road now.  It has no inter-connections, no way you can make it operable to get people into the city.  It’s a straight through route, but I think it’s going to be beneficial to the numbers of cars that come off of the business district coming down [Route] 29. 

I think it will improve the [U.S. 250/29] bypass intersection where we are getting ready to put another lane on up onto the 250/29 bypass. 

I supported the bypass when I was running in 2009.  It was in all of my printed material.  I’ve always been a supporter of transportation improvements because transportation has just been talked about and nothing has been done with it.  I think this is the time for us to grab that bull by the horns and make sure that we are planning transportation improvements, not only the internal road / bypass, but others.  On the MPO, our Long Range Transportation Plan mentions a few things.  U.S. 250 East is really a disaster, it’s a gridlock.  There’s no real easy fix because if you try and do an Eastern Connector you put the traffic back on 250, you’re just defeating the purpose.  That’s a biggie.  We’ve also talked about widening [Interstate] 64 to one more lane East and West from Shadwell to the [U.S. Route] 29 intersection with 64.  We’ve talked about widening 250/29 bypass from Barracks Road to 64, that’s a heavily travelled road that really gets jammed in.  Those are a few of the things we are trying to plan on the MPO and I’m trying to help plan it.

Samuel Miller District

Liz Palmer (D)

I am not in favor of the Western Bypass. If it goes through, if it continues to move forward, I certainly will do my utmost to make it the best road we can make it.  I am very concerned also about the way it was passed, in the midnight vote, unbeknownst to the citizens of the community. 

As far as the bypass itself, I don’t feel as though it solves our problem, it doesn’t solve our problem.  It doesn’t take enough traffic off of 29 and the level of service on 29 after the bypass is still going to be poor.  What I do support is the Places29 [master plan] and the Go29 plan that this community has created after years of work and citizen involvement.  That includes the compact overpasses at Hydraulic Road to eliminate the source of congestion and allow through traffic on 29 flow without stopping and also the compact overpass at Rio that solves that traffic snarl.  The Berkmar Bridge is an extremely important part of that plan.  It extends Berkmar Drive up to Hollymead Town Center and beyond so that drivers can go from K-Mart to Lowes to Target without getting on 29.  It also eliminates the bottleneck between the Rivanna River and Hollymead by widening 29.

What this does is it actually solves the problem for our citizens here in the community, and it also improves the [travel] time over the 29 bypass and it costs less money.  So it is the fiscally prudent way to go. Taxpayers for Common Sense has listed the bypass as one of the eight most wasteful transportation projects in the United States.  So I think from the standpoint of relieving congestion on 29, and being a fiscally conservative person, I would definitely favor the Places29/Go29 plan over the bypass.

Duane Snow (R) * Incumbent

Yes. When I was running four years ago, we had stated as one of our campaign promises that we would work to widen 29 from the river out to Hollymead, that we would work to get the second ramp for the 250 bypass, that we would connect with the Hillsdale Drive connector that runs up behind Whole Foods up to Rio Road, and that we would work on the Berkmar Extension. And those were my top four priorities as far as roads.

And with [the bypass] we had an opportunity to get all of those roads. [In the] second year in my term we got a call from Secretary [Sean] Connaughton asking to meet with us. And when we went into the meeting he said if we decided to build a bypass would you support that? And I said no, and I said what we need is these four other items…that I’ve just previously mentioned….  He said well if we could get you those would you support a bypass? And at that point I said yes.

So I am excited about getting the other roads that I just mentioned to you. The way we left it with the Berkmar extension is that would not be built as a part of this group, but they would help formulate the plan for how it would fit into the plan later. But the reason I support the bypass is because I think we need it. And I’ll give you an example. I lived on Evergreen Avenue when the 250 Bypass was put through in the 50s, a lot of people didn’t like it. It was going past McIntire School, it was cutting through McIntire Park. And a lot of people felt like we didn’t need it, and it was not a good idea. Well it was built. And I ask you if you had to go across town today how often would you take the road through Dairy Road, or Meadowbrook, Barracks Road, or go across through UVA and come across town? It would be almost impossible. We need to be planning not only for what we have right now but for what is coming in the future. And anything we build in the future is going to be more expensive than what it is costing right now. And it’s just longer delays. And we already own 60 percent of the property [for the bypass right of way].

Scottsville District – Special Election

Cindi Burket (R)

Yes I support the construction of the bypass, this road needs to be built to reduce the traffic congestion and address the accident rate on this part of the 29 corridor. Furthermore I’d just like to remind people that this construction project also includes the other needed work including the extension of Hillsdale Drive, the Best Buy ramp and the widening of 29.

Jane Dittmar (D)

County-level approval to build the bypass was completed on June 8, 2011, over two years ago.  The only remaining entity whose opinion matters is the National Highway Administration.  My opinion has no bearing on their process. 

However, my opinion on Route 20 and Route 250 improvements does have great relevance to the people who will vote on November 5 in the Scottsville District. 

Therefore I have focused my attention on how to relieve congestion and improve safety on these critical Scottsville District roads and on how we must strive to make land use planning coincide with infrastructure improvements in the future.