Supervisor Rooker seeks discussion about road priorities
Albemarle Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker expressed concern Wednesday that the Metropolitan Planning Organization is considering future road projects, such as an extension of the Western Bypass, without consulting the entire Board of Supervisors.
“It’s alarming to see this moving forward and we have projects that we’ve never even seen any presentation on,” Rooker said.
The MPO is responsible for adopting a long-range transportation plan, which signals to the federal and state government which projects the community would like to build within the next few decades.
The MPO agreed to study seven hypothetical projects last February and were briefed on the details in September.
In addition to the bypass extension, the MPO is considering a conversion of U.S. 29 to an urban boulevard; the Eastern Connector; the extension of Berkmar Drive; and other widening projects on major U.S. highways.
“Before these projects go forward with study as the list of projects for the long-range transportation plan, I’d like to make certain that our board considers these projects and weighs in,” Rooker said.
Supervisors agreed to put the matter on a future agenda. County Executive Thomas Foley said it would come back to them during their review of the Comprehensive Plan.
Supervisor Ann H. Mallek said she felt out of the loop regarding the projects.
“I feel like we’ve been shut out of this,” Mallek said.
“I don’t think it was done intentionally,” said Supervisor Rodney S. Thomas, who serves on the MPO but was absent from the September meeting.
The Western Bypass extension would use existing portions of Earlysville Road and Dickerson Road, as well as a new section of road that would extend north from the bypass’ northern terminus. The speed limit would be 50 mph.
There would be at-grade intersections at Dickerson Road, Town Center Drive, Airport Road and Quail Run. Two existing bridges on Dickerson Road would be replaced and a new bridge would be built across the North Fork of the Rivanna River.
The preliminary cost estimate is $132 million, including the cost of 20 years of maintenance.
The boulevard concept for U.S. 29 has a preliminary cost of $45 million and would involve converting one of the travel lanes on each side into a 10-foot-wide, multi-use path.
“We spent $100 million widening U.S. Route 29, and we’re talking about spending another $34 million to widen another section of 29,” Rooker said. “Now we’re talking about basically narrowing 29.”
Rooker also announced that he and Thomas recently met with representatives of Rhythm Engineering, a firm whose InSync software is being used to control the traffic lights in and around the Pantops area.
In October, the board agreed to apply for revenue-sharing funds from the Virginia Department of Transportation to install the system on U.S. 29.
“[Rhythm representatives] basically said they thought they could [install the system] for about $35,000 per intersection,” Rooker said. “They are confident that they could substantially
improve traffic flow in the corridor.”
However, VDOT officials have said the software will not work on U.S. 29.
“Adaptive Control does not offer any marked improvement for traffic flow on roadways that are at full capacity like Route 29,” wrote a VDOT official in an a response to a citizen comment related to the environmental assessment of the Western Bypass. That document was obtained by Charlottesville Tomorrow through a Freedom of Information Act request.