Transportation official calls on Charlottesville-Albemarle to work together
By Brian Wheeler
Sunday, May 22, 2011
is serving for the second time as a member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board. Appointed in the 1990s by Gov. George Allen, then in 2010 by Gov. Bob McDonnell, Rich told local officials last week that if the Charlottesville-Albemarle community is willing to work together, he is willing to fight for transportation funding.
At a meeting of the
Planning and Coordination Council
— a joint body with representation from the city of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the University of Virginia — Rich said he was happy to be serving the community as the CTB’s Culpeper District representative.
“My parents live in Albemarle County, my sister lives in Albemarle County and I have been a lifelong disciple of Thomas Jefferson,” Rich said. “It’s kind of like coming on to hallowed ground here.”
Rich painted what he described as a “challenging picture” of the transportation funding available from both state and federal sources.
“The recent figures show that about 52 percent of all funds are going into Northern Virginia, and, of course, Tidewater has significant needs with tunnels being built,” Rich said. “We smaller districts have to fight for virtually every dime, and we kind of are given the leftovers.”
Rich was peppered with questions about whether Charlottesville-Albemarle is being punished with low doses of transportation funding and about how projects with unanimous approval could get done more quickly.
“In order for us to fight for these dollars, we all need to work together in the Culpeper district,” Rich said. “We need the county working with the city and the stakeholders and the businesses. We really have to come together, because if we don’t someone else is going to get the money.”
Dennis S. Rooker
said he had just reviewed the proposed six-year funding plan and asked Rich if other localities were already getting more than their fair share.
“What’s really concerning to me … if you look at it on a per capita basis, our [Metropolitan Planning Organization] is getting about $41 per capita over the next six years,” Rooker said. “The state average is $548 per capita and the next lowest MPO in the area is over $200 per capita.”
“It doesn’t look like we are getting a reasonable share of the dollars,” Rooker said. “We have lost 94 percent of our secondary road funds over the last six years.”
According to the data shared by Rooker, of the 14 MPOs in Virginia, the Charlottesville-Albemarle area ranks dead last in per capita funding in the six-year improvement program for FY2012-17. The Blacksburg MPO receives the largest per capita allocation at $910, or 22.2 times as much as Charlottesville.
asked Rich if he thought the community was being penalized for not supporting the proposed
western bypass of U.S. 29
“I haven’t sensed that,” Rich said. “I have sensed that in some quarters there was a concern that there wasn’t communication between the various entities and therefore, until that happens, there was a concern [road projects] wouldn’t be done in a seamless way.”
“If you work with me, I view part of my job as to fight for additional money,” Rich said. “Obviously, you need some more money.”
Officials shared with Rich the consensus list of priority road projects that they hoped would receive funding more quickly to alleviate traffic congestion. The list included the Best Buy ramp at U.S. 29 and the U.S. 250 Bypass, the Hillsdale Drive extension and the elimination of the “hourglass” on U.S. 29 near Hollymead where the highway shrinks to four total lanes.
Rich suggested a local delegation meet directly with McDonnell and the state’s secretary of transportation.
“I met with [the business community] recently, and I think they have a very good attitude about working together to do the things that are doable,” Rich said. “Let’s go down and show everybody we are on the same page.”