By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, December 9, 2010

ROANOKE — The executive director of the

Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Policy Organization

told the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Wednesday why a western bypass of U.S. 29 in Albemarle County is not favored by local officials.

“We think the projects and ideas we have for the 29 corridor would serve both state and local transportation needs better than a bypass and would also be less expensive,”

Stephen W. Williams

said.


Listen using player above or download the podcast:










Download 20101208-CTB









MPO Director Stephen Williams address the Commonwealth Transportation Board at their meeting at the Hotel Roanoke


Williams said the MPO plans to address traffic congestion by increasing the capacity of existing roads, encouraging people to take public transportation and by building parallel roads such as

Hillsdale Drive

.

“Our focus for the 29 corridor is on maximizing the movement of traffic,” Williams said. “We think that’s the cost-efficient way to deal with the whole issue. Once the existing corridor and parallel roads have been maximized, then we will move on and look at the bypass as a next alternative.”

Williams said the top two priorities to address congestion on U.S. 29 are to add an additional lane from the U.S. 29 and U.S. 250 intersection to Hydraulic Road and the widening of U.S. 29 to six lanes from Airport Road to the South Fork of the Rivanna River.

The MPO still lists the western bypass as a project on its six-year plan because $47.2 million has been spent on preliminary engineering and to buy right-of-way for the 6.1 mile route. Estimates for construction of the four-lane, limited-access highway range from $161 million to nearly $300 million.

Williams said the most recent origin and destination study estimated that 85 percent of the traffic on U.S. 29 in Albemarle County is local.

Officials from cities south of Charlottesville continue to call for the road’s construction. State Sen. Steve Newman

told the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday

that he has requested a meeting with Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to press the issue.

James Davis, who represents the Staunton district on the CTB, asked Williams if the MPO’s philosophy is skewed toward local needs rather than state needs.






A slide from Williams’ presentation


“As a small MPO working with local government, what we primarily have access to is funds related to the local systems,” Williams said. “However, we would very enthusiastically support investment by the state of Virginia in capacity improvements in the major corridors of significance.”

In January, the CTB will take up a draft report of a subcommittee tasked with completing a

corridor-wide study of U.S. 29

. The study fell short of the CTB’s expectations after several improvements were removed at the request of elected officials in Albemarle and Louisa counties. The draft report calls for meetings between elected officials from communities along the U.S 29 to build consensus on long-term planning.

When another CTB member asked if that would be an “exercise in futility,” Lynchburg’s representative said yes.

“It has been in dealing with the Charlottesville and Albemarle folks,” Mark Peake said. “They have fought us every step of the way in proceeding with the bypass.”

CTB member

James Rich

, whose Culpeper District includes Albemarle and Charlottesville, suggested that selling the right-of-way for the western bypass might help pay for some of the projects Williams had described. In all, $

33.7 million was spent to purchase land

.

However, Peake reminded Rich that VDOT must offer to sell the property back to the original landowner at its original cost.

“We are not going to get any windfall by selling the right-of-way,” Peake said. “The landowners will get the windfall. We cannot sell this right-of-way and use that money. … It would be a tremendous loss of taxpayer dollars.”

Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton said he would try to get an opinion on the issue from VDOT staff before the next discussion of the bypass.

Albemarle Supervisor

Rodney S. Thomas

attended the meeting to represent the MPO.

“I learned that there’s a big concern on the board because of the bottleneck,” said Thomas, who supports the bypass. “I don’t want U.S. 29 to be the catch-all road for everything. I want there to be an alternative.”

Bypass opponent Albemarle Supervisor

Dennis S. Rooker

also attended the meeting and came away with a different message.

“I think that the CTB appears to be open to dealing with different strategies at a time when there’s little money,” Rooker said. “I think they recognize that our strategies will improve the traffic.”

Williams also asked the CTB to assist the MPO in efforts to pass legislation to allow Charlottesville and Albemarle County to hold a referendum on a sales tax increase to pay for transportation improvements.

“We hope there’s some way you could influence the members of the legislature,” Williams said.


TIMELINE FOR PODCAST:


Western bypass for U.S. 29 scrutinized by state transportation board officials on Charlottesville plans



By Sean Tubbs


Charlottesville Tomorrow



stubbs@cvilletomorrow.org



ROANOKE — The executive director of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Policy Organization told the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Wednesday why a western bypass of U.S. 29 in Albemarle County is not favored by local officials.


“We think the projects and ideas we have for the 29 corridor would serve both state and local transportation needs better than a bypass and would also be less expensive,” Stephen W. Williams said.


Williams said the MPO plans to address traffic congestion by increasing the capacity of existing roads, encouraging people to take public transportation and by building parallel roads such as Hillsdale Drive.


“Our focus for the 29 corridor is on maximizing the movement of traffic,” Williams said. “We think that’s the cost-efficient way to deal with the whole issue. Once the existing corridor and parallel roads have been maximized, then we will move on and look at the bypass as a next alternative.”


Williams said the top two priorities to address congestion on U.S. 29 are to add an additional lane from the U.S. 29 and U.S. 250 intersection to Hydraulic Road and the widening of U.S. 29 to six lanes from Airport Road to the South Fork of the Rivanna River.


The MPO still lists the western bypass as a project on its six-year plan because $47.2 million has been spent on preliminary engineering and to buy right-of-way for the 6.1 mile route. Estimates for construction of the four-lane, limited-access highway range from $161 million to nearly $300 million.


Williams said the most recent origin and destination study estimated that 85 percent of the traffic on U.S. 29 in Albemarle County is local.


Officials from cities south of Charlottesville continue to call for the road’s construction. State Sen. Steve Newman told the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday that he has requested a meeting with Gov. Bob McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to press the issue.


James Davis, who represents the Staunton district on the CTB, asked Williams if the MPO’s philosophy is skewed toward local needs rather than state needs.


“As a small MPO working with local government, what we primarily have access to is funds related to the local systems,” Williams said. “However, we would very enthusiastically support investment by the state of Virginia in capacity improvements in the major corridors of significance.”


In January, the CTB will take up a draft report of a subcommittee tasked with completing a corridor-wide study of U.S. 29. The study fell short of the CTB’s expectations after several improvements were removed at the request of elected officials in Albemarle and Louisa counties. The draft report calls for meetings between elected officials from communities along the U.S 29 to build consensus on long-term planning.


When another CTB member asked if that would be an “exercise in futility,” Lynchburg’s representative said yes.


“It has been in dealing with the Charlottesville and Albemarle folks,” Mark Peake said. “They have fought us every step of the way in proceeding with the bypass.”


CTB member James Rich, whose Culpeper District includes Albemarle and Charlottesville, suggested that selling the

right-of-way for the western bypass might help pay for some of the projects Williams had described. In all, $33.7 million was spent to purchase land.



However, Peake reminded Rich that VDOT must offer to sell the property back to the original landowner at its original cost.



“We are not going to get any windfall by selling the right-of-way,” Peake said. “The landowners will get the windfall. We cannot sell this right-of-way and use that money. … It would be a tremendous loss of taxpayer dollars.”



Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton said he would try to get an opinion on the issue from VDOT staff before the next discussion of the bypass.



Albemarle Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas attended the meeting to represent the MPO.



“I learned that there’s a big concern on the board because of the bottleneck,” said Thomas, who supports the bypass. “I don’t want U.S. 29 to be the catch-all road for everything. I want there to be an alternative.”



Bypass opponent Albemarle Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker also attended the meeting and came away with a different message.



“I think that the CTB appears to be open to dealing with different strategies at a time when there’s little money,” Rooker said. “I think they recognize that our strategies will improve the traffic.”



Williams also asked the CTB to assist the MPO in efforts to pass legislation to allow Charlottesville and Albemarle County to hold a referendum on a sales tax increase to pay for transportation improvements.



“We hope there’s some way you could influence the members of the legislature,” Williams said.



Charlottesville Tomorrow is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization covering land-use and transportation issues in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.











From:



Brian Wheeler

[mailto:bwheeler@cvilletomorrow.org]



Sent:

Wednesday, December 08, 2010 9:42 PM


To:

Rector, Jennifer W.; Barney, Joshua D.


Cc:

‘Sean Tubbs’


Subject:

RE: Reminder about CTB story tonight


Reminder Sean needs final copy.  Thanks!




From:



Brian Wheeler

[mailto:bwheeler@cvilletomorrow.org]



Sent:

Wednesday, December 08, 2010 5:20 PM


To:

‘CMcCance@dailyprogress.com’; ‘jrector@dailyprogress.com’; ‘jbarney@dailyprogress.com’


Cc:

‘Sean Tubbs (

stubbs@cvilletomorrow.org

)’


Subject:

RE: Reminder about CTB story tonight


Story attached – Please send edits back to both Brian and Sean




From:




CMcCance@dailyprogress.com


[mailto:CMcCance@dailyprogress.com]



Sent:

Wednesday, December 08, 2010 4:05 PM


To:


bwheeler@cvilletomorrow.org

;

jrector@dailyprogress.com

;

jbarney@dailyprogress.com



Subject:

RE: Reminder about CTB story tonight


ok thanks for the reminder.







From:



Brian Wheeler

[mailto:bwheeler@cvilletomorrow.org]



Sent:

Wednesday, December 08, 2010 3:54 PM


To:

McCance, Charles M.; Rector, Jennifer W.; Barney, Joshua D.


Subject:

Reminder about CTB story tonight


Reminder that Sean will be filing a story from Roanoke on the Commonwealth Transportation Board meeting today that included a presentation by a delegation of Cville-Albemarle officials.



Brian




Brian Wheeler



,

Executive Director



Charlottesville Tomorrow


P.O. Box 1591

Charlottesville, VA 22902


bwheeler@cvilletomorrow.org






tel: 434-260-1533

fax: 866-252-5530



www.cvilletomorrow.org


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