By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Friday, April 1, 2011

A $4.7 million project to add lanes to the

U.S. 29/250 Bypass


interchange

has been delayed because the city of Charlottesville does not yet have the money required to pay for its final design.


Edens & Avant

, the developer of the mixed-use

Stonefield

development in Albemarle County, is required by the terms of an amended 2010 rezoning to pay $1 million to the city for the project.

“Our concern is that the proffer hasn’t been received,” said Jeanette Janiczek, the city’s urban construction initiatives manager.






Source: Daily Progress


The terms of the proffer require Edens & Avant to send the money to the city within 60 days of the county’s approval of a final site plan for Stonefield’s first phase. County officials were unavailable for comment Thursday, but their online database shows that the plan is still under review.

The 29/250 project would add an additional southbound lane from Hydraulic Road to the interchange, a second ramp leading up to the U.S. 250 Bypass near the Best Buy and a third lane on the bypass that would extend to the Barracks Road exit.

“From a construction and design point of view, the project is relatively simple,” said

Stephen Williams

, director of the

Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission

, at a recent meeting of the

Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board

.

“[But] for a short $5 million project, it’s got an incredibly complex funding structure,” Williams added.

The city has accrued $4.2 million of the project’s cost from several sources, including $2.2 million in federal funding for primary roads. Ordinarily, cities are not permitted by state law to receive that money, but special legislation was passed in 2007 to allow Charlottesville to do so.

The city also has put up $1 million of its own funds to receive another $1 million from the Virginia Department of Transportation under the agency’s revenue-sharing program.

The $517,000 cost of a final design was to have been covered by a federal earmark that had been secured by former Rep. Tom Perriello. However, Congress did not pass the federal budget for the current fiscal year and the earmark died.

Janiczek said the city is constrained in its ability to pay for the design work.

“According to the way the revenue-sharing agreement [with VDOT] was structured, we first need to spend city money, then we can spend state-revenue sharing money, and then we can spend primary money,” Janiczek said “If we could start spending primary funds now, we could start the project but that’s not how the agreement is structured.”


Jim Tolbert

, the city’s director of neighborhood development services, said the agreement requires the city to use the money from the proffer to fund the design.

City Councilor

Satyendra Huja

, who serves on the MPO Policy Board, said efforts are under way to try to change the agreement.

“We’re going to ask the state if we can start with other money first,” Huja said in an interview. “It will take another six months to see if they agree.”

Huja said he was fairly confident the road improvements would be built.

“[The project] has state interest, county interest and city interest,” Huja said. “It would have been easier if we had the federal earmark.”

Del. David J. Toscano, D-Charlottesville, said he is also trying to “jumpstart” the project, suggesting that one possibility could be to reassign the project to be under VDOT’s control.

“That way the city wouldn’t have to worry about receiving the proffer money, so the preliminary engineering could be done,” Toscano said. “The best option would be that the proffer money be made available right away, but if that is not possible, then we need to figure out another way to move this forward.”

This week, the local

Chamber of Commerce

wrote a letter to Rep. Robert Hurt asking him for his help in moving along transportation projects that would alleviate congestion on U.S. 29.

“We would greatly appreciate your support for any request made to the Department of Transportation,” wrote chamber President Timothy Hulbert.

During the campaign last year, Hurt said he was opposed to the use of earmarks and pledged not to ask for any.

“At a time when our nation faces $14 trillion in debt and $1.6 trillion in deficit spending, Robert believes that any funding for necessary or worthy projects in the 5th District must be considered in the context of a balanced budget,” Amanda Henneberg, Hurt’s spokeswoman, said Thursday.

“He looks forward to working with local and regional leaders on transportation plans and improvements that will benefit all Central and Southside Virginians, and commends the local officials on the initiatives they are pursuing to improve the safety and efficiency of the U.S. 29/250 interchange,” she continued.

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