Top officials from Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia have been briefed on the status of various transportation projects in our area.  Butch Davies, Culpeper District Representative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB), spoke for about forty minutes to the Planning and Coordination Council at their meeting on May 1, 2008.

Davies said he is frustrated at the state’s inability to fund transportation projects.

“Where we had funding for projects, we do not have sufficient funding for building,” Davies said. Costs for materials and labor are accelerating rapidly each year, as does the cost of right of way. “In many cases now, right of way is costing more than the actual construction of the roads.”

However, Davies was optimistic at the state’s involvement in intermodal freight transportation, which he said will help limit the growth of trucks on the road. However, he also said that a huge port expansion at Hampton Roads will double the freight cargo needing transport.

“And with that growing capacity, Norfolk Southern is looking a rail-line which will carry piggy-back rail to Roanoke… to a new inland port,” Davies said. From there, freight will be transferred to truck, which could lead to increased truck traffic on US Route 29.  Secondary roads throughout Virginia with at-grade railroad crossings should expect an increasing number of delays.

Davies also suggested that a look at Bus Rapid Transit for the US Route 29 corridor might be part of the coming $1.5 million US Route 29 Corridor Study that VDOT is currently putting out to bid. The study will look at ways to speed up traffic along Route 29 from Amherst north to Gainesville. Davies said communities to the south are seeking a limited access highway that would be Interstate-quality, but added that the real focus on Route 29 will come because of increased congestion on Interstate 81.

“Over the next eight to ten years, I think we’re going to see a growing use of the 29 corridor as an alternate for that north-south traffic,” Davies said.  However, Davies said the study will involve input from each community along the way. “There is a realization that one size will not fit all… the corridor has changed so dramatically in the decade and a half since the last study… You’re really going to have to look at some innovative concepts.” He also said that there will be “some high-profile projects that are going to get funded” possibly with a bond issue.

Davies also gave local leaders an update on other projects in this area.

Davies concluded his presentation by saying that funding for the Advance Mills replacement bridge is secure, but that other unfunded projects may go without. He urged City and County officials to continue being flexible and wise about applying for revenue-sharing projects, enhancement projects and looking for other revenue sources.

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Sean Tubbs

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