Three members of the MPO Policy Board were present at the group’s meeting on November 24, 2008. The Board continued its discussion of the UNJAM 2035 regional transportation plan , endorsed the transportation component of the Places29 Master Plan , and discussed ways to boost public participation in the discussion of transportation projects. City Councilor Julian Taliaferro and County Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) were not present.

This fall, the MPO has moved their meetings to the CitySpace meeting room in the Market Street Parking garage in order to boost public participation. The strategy appears to be working, as the November meeting featured more comments from the public than normal.

Several citizens spoke to encourage the MPO Policy Board to include the proposed pedestrian bridge over the Rivanna River south of Free Bridge in the UNJAM 2035 plan as a transportation project, not a recreation project. The MPO Policy Board and its various subcommittees are currently evaluating what new projects to include on the plan’s Constrained Long Range Project list. The CLRP is an exercise in which the MPO must list projects that can actually be funded over the next few decades, based on current projections of funding.

City resident Stephen Bach suggested prioritizing the Rivanna bridge above a project to build bike lanes and sidewalks on Old Ivy Road in Albemarle County. Bach said the footbridge over the Rivanna would serve more people.

Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) disputed Bach’s contention, and reminded him that there are many University of Virginia students live in apartment complexes on Old Ivy Road. The project would allow them safer passage through the railroad underpass.

City Councilor and MPO Vice Chair Satyendra Huja said he would not be opposed to including the bridge on the constrained plan, but he said he thought the project was still at the conceptual phase. The project was recommended for inclusion on the constrained plan by both the CHART and MPO Tech committees, but was moved to the ‘vision list’ by the MPO Policy Board at their October meeting .

Since the MPO last discussed the CLRP in October, the description for the Old Ivy Road has been changed to specifically address the underpass issue. Currently, pedestrians and cyclists do not have a safe path under the railroad tracks.

The group did not make final recommendations on the constrained project list because of the absence of Slutzky and Taliaferro.  The CLRP will come back before the MPO at its next meeting in December.

MPO ENDORSES US 29 NORTH CORRIDOR TRANSPORTATION STUDY

The US 29 North Corridor Transportation Study is a list of potential transportation projects to improve mobility along US 29. It is also the transportation component of the Places29 Master Plan. The MPO held its first public hearing on the study in June 2008.

During the public hearing, Albemarle County resident Greg Quinn said that US 29 is “Main Street” for the community. He recommended reducing the speed limit to 40 miles per hour for the entire span from the Greene County line to the City of Charlottesville. Quinn also recommended the creation of a parkway along the Dickerson Road corridor as well as a bypass of US 29 that would use the same corridor as the railroad track from Barboursville to Charlottesville. In reference to the study’s call for a bus rapid transit system, Quinn said public transit is only used by 2% of the population, and that society has been developed around the automobile.

Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center urged the MPO to endorse the plan in order to fix congestion on US 29. He said the grade-separated interchanges called for in the plan would improve traffic flow for both local and through traffic.  However, he said the Rio interchange needed to be a mid-term project rather than a long-term one because he said it is needed soon.

Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum expressed his concern that the study might be approved without accurate cost estimates, and passed out a sheet that estimated the cost of improvements at $292 million, not including the cost of acquiring the right-of-way.

City resident Gerard Diely, who serves on the MPO’s Community Mobility Committee, said that he did not think the study did enough to promote or encourage transit ridership. Diely read from a poem he wrote that described how light rail would improve the corridor.

The MPO voted to endorse the study, with an amendment to raise the priority for the widening of US 29 from Polo Grounds Road to Hollymead Town Center. The study had recommended it as a mid-term project rather than a near-term one. Rooker suggested the project could likely qualify for primary road funding.

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