MPO adjusts project costs in long-range transportation plan
At their meeting on January 28, 2009, the
MPO Policy Board
continued discussion of the
long-range transportation forecast, revised a document that governs the MPO’s relationship to VDOT and discussed the possibility of a list of regional transportation projects for inclusion in President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus package.
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(Jack Jouett) served as the Acting Chair for the meeting.
Regular Chair, Supervisor
(Rio), was in Richmond testifying before the House of Delegates committee considering a bill to grant Charlottesville and Albemarle County permission to hold a referendum on an up to 1 cent sales tax increase to fund transit and transportation projects. The bill (
) was voted down 6-2 in a House Finance subcommittee, according to the
“I think everybody recognized that this bill was unlikely to get out of committee,” Rooker said. “I think it’s important that we submitted it because it continues to elevate the importance of the state dealing with transportation funding. All of us would prefer that the state meets its obligations but it’s not doing that.”
A bill to create the regional transportation authority (
) is still proceeding through the General Assembly.
the MPO adopted a constrained long-range transportation plan
as part of the UNJAM 2035 long-range plan. That meant that members adjusted the list of transportation projects to include only those that could be paid for using projected funding over the next 26 years. However, new rules from the Federal Highway Administration require the MPO to adjust the list once more to take inflation into account. The constrained long-range plan (CLRP) must now calculate the amount a project will cost in the year the funding is to be expended.
Ann Whitham with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission told the Policy Board that when those calculations were made, the CLRP was $87 million over budget. Cuts were made after discussing the over-run with City and County transportation engineers as well as the CHART and MPO Tech Committees. After the cuts were made, Whitham said there was still a balance of around $164,000 that needed to be cut.
The MPO was also asked to weigh in on the choices that were made to balance the CLRP. CHART, staff and the MPO Tech Committee did not reach consensus on whether a $16 million project to add safety improvements to Proffit Road should be moved to the CLRP’s vision list. Supervisor Rooker asked if doing so would hurt the County’s ability to collect on proffer money from the North Pointe development. Albemarle County’s Chief of Planning, David Benish, explained the proffers would only apply to the sections from US 29 to Pritchett Lane. The project was left in the CLRP.
Jim Utterback, Administrator of VDOT’s Culpeper Residency, warned that the MPO may need to rebalance the CLRP one more time after the Commonwealth Transportation Board votes to adopt new secondary road allocations in February.
Rooker suggested balancing the CLRP by reducing the cost estimate for the Berkmar Drive Extension and accompanying bridge over the South Fork of the Rivanna River. The project currently has an estimate of $22 million, and Rooker suggested it could be lowered because the project will only get built if the County can get a developer to pay for it.
“The whole road would probably be built by developers,” Rooker said. “We won’t build the bridge unless we get a significant proffer on the bridge.
Benish suggested rounding the estimate to $20 million to create a cushion if other adjustments need to be made. The MPO did not make that adjustment, but gave direction to staff to make further adjustments by reducing the cost estimate for the Berkmar project.
HYDRAULIC VS RIO INTERCHANGES REVISITED
In December 2008, the MPO voted to move the Hydraulic Road grade-separated interchange to UNJAM 2035’s vision list, and to move the Rio Road grade-separated interchange to the constrained long-range plan. The move was made at the request of City representatives, and supported by the County representatives who felt that improvements at Rio would be more pressing once the Meadowcreek Parkway opens in 2012.
However, Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center said that his organization would like to see both interchanges included in the long-range plan.
“We feel both are critical to untangling local and regional traffic on the 29 corridor, “ Butler said, though he added that the SELC understands that the region can only afford one of the projects. The Rio project has a price-tag of over $50 million and is projected as a mid-term project, meaning it would not be built for 10 to 20 years from now.
Butler went on to say that the Hydraulic interchange was called for in two significant transportation studies. First, the US 29 North Corridor Transportation Study
adopted by the MPO late November
calls for Hydraulic Road to be upgraded in order to alleviate traffic congestion between the interchange south to the interchange with the US29/250 bypass. Second, the 29H250 study released in 2004 found that a grade-separated interchange was essential to alleviating traffic conditions.
However, City Councilor
repeated his preference to see the Rio Road interchange built first. VDOT Engineer Chuck Proctor warned that any changes to the Hydraulic interchange would affect the 29/250 interchange further south, because the Hydraulic Road intersection with US 29 currently acts as a gate to stop traffic from overloading the interchange. Benish reminded the MPO that the prior developer of Albemarle Place, Frank Cox, commissioned a plan for the interchange demonstrating how a grade-separated interchange could be successfully built at that location.
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