The Charlottesville Bypass is a go, thanks to approval by the Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO. But it’s unclear when the money for other promised U.S. 29 corridor improvements will be forthcoming.
By James A. Bacon
The Charlottesville region will get $197 million for a western bypass plus $33 million to widen a stretch of U.S 29 north of the city, but citizens may have to wait years before funds come available to build other priority projects in the U.S. 29 corridor.
In a split decision, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization voted to amend its Transportation Improvement Plan to include the two projects but did not make the approval contingent upon state funding for the other projects, as two MPO board members had hinted they might. Instead, the board attached a letter from Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton that outlined his promise to “recommend” the improvements to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) for incorporation into the state’s Six Year Plan next year.
The value of the promises in Connaughton’s letter became the object of contention between MPO board members. “I’ve got the letter that I sought,” declared Albemarle County representative Duane Snow, who also serves on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. “We’ve got two major projects funded. I think Connaughton’s letter is sufficient” for the rest.
But Charlottesville representative Kristin Szakos said the letter “doesn’t offer any concrete assurances.” Moreover, she said, she didn’t like the fact that the letter had been delivered the day of the hearing, giving neither board members nor the public time to examine it carefully.
Having received approval by the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, the CTB and the regional MPO, the Charlottesville Bypass is now on the fast track after languishing for 20 years. But the project has not seen the end of controversy. Before construction begins, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will have to conduct an extensive environmental impact study, complete the design, acquire more right of way and bid out the construction contracts. Continue reading.
(Read related story published by Charlottesville Tomorrow.)