In advance of Election Day on Nov. 3, Charlottesville Tomorrow will once again mail out in-depth nonpartisan voter guides, featuring exclusive one-on-one interviews with all 25 candidates for Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, Charlottesville City Council and both local school boards. In the days before the election, we will also feature their responses to several important questions about key quality of life issues so that you can compare candidates’ answers and make an informed choice.
Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2015 Election Center website features links to the full written transcript and audio of candidate interviews, copies of our 2015 voter guide, information on where to vote, and more. All the following passages are excerpts from our interviews.
ALBEMARLE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, THIRD IN A SERIES
Norman Dill (D-Rivanna)
Well my top one in the short term, and it certainly affects my district a lot, is [U.S. Route] 29 North. We are spending $250 million on the various aspects of that. So it is not only the grade-separated interchanges that we all talk about so much, but it is also Hillsdale Drive, and the widening up near Forest Lakes, and flattening so it is not so hilly, 29 North up there is pretty dangerous. So making those improvements, having them done on time and properly and protecting the retailers along the way that are in the way, that’s certainly a top priority.
Next is Pantops which has some of the same problems of a lot of intense growth, hundreds and hundreds of new homes over the last few years, but which also has the problem of having a bridge there that is a bottleneck. There’s work being done to do the high-tech light changing technology that they are using on 29 North, that’s just beginning, but that’s going to need some attention to see just how that’s going to be handled.
In the long run, again bike paths, walkability, having retail spots near homes so that you don’t need to do as much driving, having walking and bike access near Forest Lakes, Hollymead and the Hollymead Town Center. You can’t get across the street there or at Pantops to get from the new developments to the Pantops Shopping Center. So just some basic things like that, having pedestrian crossings, would be really helpful.
Lawrence Gaughan (I-Rivanna)
Well this is a question that I have a very specific answer to that I don’t think my opponents, either of them, have really looked into this or come up with a solution. I have a solution to [U.S. Route] 29 and [U.S. Route] 250 that would involve some public and private investment, some bond measures, combined with greater involvement on the federal and state level. Route 29 should have grade-separated interchanges at Rio and also Hydraulic, but before those go in we need to immediately revive talks about the Western Bypass.
Having traveled throughout the Fifth District last year running for Congress, I know better than anybody who’s running for board in any of the districts how important it is to have a bypass around Charlottesville that we are sorely lacking. Now when the bypass [proposal] was put in as a solution many, many years ago, it was a good solution, but it just lacked a lot of future thought and planning. To help secure state and federal funding for the projects, and let the state and federal government bear more of the burden, I would be uniquely qualified to reach out to our Governor, to reach out to our congressman, who I ran against last year and developed a good relationship with. By the way, if things go as they might, one of my very good friends, [Lieutenant Governor Ralph] Northam may very well be the next governor. And we are not going to be dealing with this issue probably in the next two years. It will probably have to be addressed in the next 3-4 years. I’ll do that foot work to help secure more state and federal funding but I think that the answer is a two-fold answer, we need to revive the Western Bypass, get the funding for it, break ground on it, get it done, and in the meantime we can start talking about the best solution for grade-separated interchanges on 29 to alleviate some of the local traffic. A bypass is so important. Every other community…Danville, has an excellent bypass, you don’t even see the town of Danville, and Danville’s a city just about as large as Charlottesville, and you don’t even see it when you go around the bypass headed north and south. Same with Lynchburg, you don’t even see the city, Culpeper has a bypass. So it’s all throughout our area and we have got to have a solution here in Charlottesville that wouldn’t be environmentally destructive, I am very conscientious of negotiating this to be done in a way that doesn’t rub the Piedmont Environmental Council or the [Southern Environmental Law Center] in the wrong way.
Richard Lloyd (R-Rivanna)
We grew up in an era when the car became prevalent. I think more and more the car companies are finding out that you have this spending wave. You know when you are very young you don’t spend much money, you don’t have a car. I’m going to take the money as one issue because people can relate to it, but look at how many cars you control. A friend of mine told me once that, “Success is how many pots you control.” You are young, you are born, you don’t spend very much. You get into grammar school and you spend a little bit more, and you’ve got clothing and shoes and so forth. You get into high school and you spend more because now you have style and all these things going on. The end of high school you get your car. You go off to college and you spend even more. And your parents now have gone through their family creation. Their houses have gotten bigger and bigger, and then you go off to college and their houses get smaller and smaller. And instead of having three cars in the family they go down to two cars. Then you get married and you spending hits its all-time maximum. What is that age, 39 or so, it’s when you have your children and they are all going to school. And your parents spending wave is way behind because now they are now going through the downsizing of their houses and they are down to one car and so forth. Well the Baby Boomers are all on the down side right now so the demand for cars is down and there is no doubt that GM, Ford and Chrysler are not seeing the successes that they saw in the past. It’s because the Baby Boomer generation is so much larger, multiples, than their children, the Echo Boomers.
So I look at transportation and I just hope we are not using the numbers of the past to plan future transportation because it is different these days. Cars are not as big to begin with, and they don’t burn as much fuel, there are not as many of them largely, but we still have these pinch points. What is Charlottesville? Charlottesville is a transportation hub for central Virginia. We have the airport, we have the train station, we have I-64 we have [Route] 29 and we can’t move any of them, they are fixed, and we need to get to all of them. We have the medical center, we have the hospitals for central Virginia, we are the medical center for central Virginia. We’ve got to get people in and out, not just on an emergency basis, but to see their doctors. We need a good solid transportation plan. We moved Martha Jefferson [Hospital] but nobody thought about changing a single road. I live in Pantops. I can tell you if I am downtown and want to get to Pantops at 5 p.m. I am in for a wait. What happens is we look at these intersections and they do traffic plans for intersections for God’s sake. Why don’t we get a regional transportation plan together, a really good current one and then take that regional plan and just zero in on different draws. We can see what the important ones are. We need to get people to the hospital. You have this traffic conflagration at a particular intersection. We’ve got through traffic, and we’ve got local traffic. How are we going to handle that locally? We can’t do that intersection by intersection, we’ve got to do it regionally and then come inward. I have not seen a regional traffic plan put forward.
Number one, I don’t know that you can prioritize anything until you have the regional study done, and done by very good people. You know you can get a cut rate plan or study, or you can go hire a couple graduate students from Virginia Tech and they will give you a pretty dam good plan. Or you can go out and find people who have experience, who have a track record, who have education, and get them to put together, they’ll have a company that does it, and we’ll get a very good plan. This fellow Ian Lockwood is very talented, very experienced, and he carries the credentials that no city councilor, that no supervisor could possibly come close to.
Richard Randolph (D-Scottsville)
Well my top transportation priority will be to work on developing that multi-modal transportation grid of interaction between the university and also the city and the county. There are many transportation challenges that need to be talked about however beyond just a multi-modal future.
Construction of the Route 29, Hillsdale Drive and Berkmar Drive components of the Places29 master plan should at completion successfully address removal of the major obstacles to expedited traffic through the 29 north. The County must be vigilant in not substituting a new zone of potential traffic lights on 29 south which will add to through traffic times between I-66 to the north and Lynchburg and Danville to the south.
Route 20 as it intersects with Mill Creek Road and Route 53 remains a bottleneck in the mornings for north-bound traffic and at night for those driving towards Scottsville. Had Biscuit Run been developed as originally planned, this congestion would have already intensified exponentially. I am committed to finding ways to improve this traffic flow, but the scarcity of VDOT funds for a widening of Route 20 along this stretch is going to make this a major challenge.
A similar scenario where a road widening would be beneficial applies for Route 250 east from Shadwell out to the Glenmore Way and the entrance to both Glenmore and coming Rivanna Village. Additional designated growth in the Village of Rivanna beyond what is currently permitted will necessitate that VDOT widen this stretch of 250. However, the complete rebuilding of the 250 bridge over the Buckingham Branch Railroad at Shadwell two years ago with only two lanes indicates that VDOT is not planning to widen 250 for many years to come.
Earl Smith (R-Scottsville)
I didn’t understand this one, I thought it meant public transportation, but now that I do, I really think that most of our transportation problems again go back to our poor planning of where we put things. You know we overloaded Route 29. We stay away from the [interstate interchanges] that can handle the traffic for on and off. We keep going to a two lane road where we could come off of a major highway and it could be right there. I really believe that our transportation problems have come from that. I’ll say again that fiasco on Route 29, that 20 years ago I was working for Miss Utility and I was out marking phone lines when some engineer decided that what we have now at Rio Rd was the be all fix all do all. I remember when there was trees there. I remember when you got to [Fashion Square] Mall and the Mall was not even there. It took forever to get to Greene County, but I think this [grade-separated] interchange thing I know it’s – I don’t even like talking about it – to me it is a $235 million do over from poor planning. To save three and one half minutes, are you kidding me? As a business person if I had an employee come up to me and say, ‘You’ve got to pay me, you know it’s going to cost you a set amount of money for us to save us three and one half minutes,’ and you can’t equate that, and you try and do your little figures and equate that into what your labor cost is going to be for that week. Really? My head would explode.
You can tell I am at a loss for words with this stuff. I had nothing to do with it. Boy if I was there I would still be fighting and kicking and screaming about it. I don’t like it now. But I can’t do anything about it, really, except maybe next time if I am elected, then my common sense, and my tenacity to fight for what is right, and to tell people, ‘That’s really stupid.’ I am not afraid to say ‘stupid.’ If I have to stay there until 4:00 in the morning every time we are discussing it they are going to hate me. That’s just ridiculous that we as citizens of Albemarle County have to put up with something like that that like I said 20 years ago was the fix, and now it is not.
White Hall District
Ann Mallek (D-White Hall) * Incumbent
Well, I have very much enjoyed my last year and a half on the MPO and am very proud of the fact that the [Interstate 64 Exit] 118 interchange has been elbowed up to the top of the list as far as the priority for the MPO for funding from the state and federal dollars. I think it is the essential interchange to get rebuilt. It was a poor design to begin with all those years ago and designed that way to save money. But it has been a safety problem and it is also tremendously impactful for businesses to move their materials and to make that connection. It’s a regional impact all the way south when people are trying to connect from northbound [Route] 29 to westbound 64 and those big trucks are sitting there at a dead stop trying to cross three lanes of traffic going 55 m.p.h. That is ridiculous. So that is my absolutely my first priority and as much as elbow-pushing as I can do to get that moving along, that is what I will be working on.
We certainly have through the efforts of the long-range local plan have a wide array of neighborhood connection problems which need to be done, sidewalks that need to be done, all those kinds of things that are many fewer dollars, thankfully, than the big one. And fortunately come out of different buckets of money so that we need to make it possible for people in our growth area to quickly access their jobs by something other than a vehicle. I know there are residents particularly in the southern part of the growth area who are jumping up and down about their trail connections so they can use them to bike to work for example and not have to go on the main roads of Avon Street and Fifth Street to get into town. I’m really encouraging those elements to go forward as well.
Back to your top priority and the Interstate 64 and 29 interchange and the funding for that. Can you say a little bit about how that would happen?
Well, it has been in the long-range plan for some time but way out in the vision list 20 years away. We were able to get it into the constrained plan which is the six-year element and now this year for funding for transportation there is a parallel track of prioritization for the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the CTB. They will run the numbers and the projects the old-fashioned way and they will also run a parallel decision-making using the priorities in the new HB2 funding legislation that passed the General Assembly two years ago. It is still very much a work in progress. The priority descriptions seem to be changing fairly frequently which makes you pretty nervous but at least for this first year, you will have the elements of both and they will look at the similarities and differences and the result. I take some comfort in that actually that they aren’t just making a giant leap into the unknown and I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. I don’t know how the CTB members will react to finding that they can’t pull their pet project up from the depths because they wouldn’t be able to explain it.
So I see some benefit in the HB2 process. Happily for the exit 118, it qualifies for prioritization in all five categories of economic development and helping businesses move products, of people getting get to their jobs, of safety for the crosses, for the regional effect for people all the way from Culpeper to Danville, basically, is that element of being able to get onto the interstate. I may be wrong, but I certainly anticipate that it will be accepted as our number one priority.