State Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, has filed a resolution and budget amendment to study building an eastern bypass around U.S. 29 around Charlottesville, reports the Daily Progress. During the McDonnell administration, Charlottesville residents managed to kill a proposed $230 million western bypass around the city in favor of making extensive improvements to U.S. 29 itself. Now Peake wants to try building a bypass around the eastern side of Charlottesville. Danville built a bypass and Lynchburg built one, he says, and it’s reasonable to ask Charlottesville to build one, too.
I understand Lynchburg’s fixation on the Charlottesville bypass. Back in the days when interstate highways were being mapped out, Lynchburg drew the short stick and got… bypassed. U.S. 29, a state highway, became its major industrial access corridor. But local land use decisions in Charlottesville and Albemarle County gunked up the highway with shopping centers, malls, stop lights, curb cuts, and other encumbrances. U.S. 29 north of Charlottesville became, in essence, a suburbified Main Street at the expense of travelers passing through. Lynchburg residents had every right to complain.
But $230 million is a lot of money, and analysis showed that construction of a bypass, which would circumvent only a fraction of the congestion, would save only a few minutes in travel time. The Virginia Department of Transportation instead invested in the money spot improvements that, along with stoplight synchronization, have eased congestion somewhat.
Enough time has passed, however, that Peake wants to try again, this time exploring the potential for a bypass east of the city.
This proposal won’t fly any more than a western bypass. For starters, an eastern bypass would be longer, hence more expensive. Second, most Charlottesville-Albemarle residents don’t want a bypass, period, they will oppose it with every fiber of their being, and the politics will be just as ugly this time around as it was for the western bypass.
Third, Peake is overlooking an emerging threat to travel times on U.S. 29 — the gunking up of the entire highway between Charlottesville, Warrenton and Northern Virginia. As the Northern Virginia development blob penetrates ever deeper into the rural hinterlands, the highway is attracting more exurban-style development. It seems as if a new stoplight is added with every passing year. While the stoplights tend to be miles apart, the sheer number of delays are equivalent to what travelers encounter in Charlottesville.
Peake and his fellow Lynchburgers should fear the stroadification of the entire highway north of Charlottesville. (Stroads are dysfunctional street-road hybrids, which U.S. 29 is becoming.) Instead of pushing for an expensive, unpopular bypass, he should work on legislation that safeguards the integrity of the remaining highway portion of U.S. 29 by limiting direct access to it.There are currently no comments highlighted.