The Piedmont View

ALBEMARLE

Despite questions and bumps in the road, VDOT continues to push the Western Bypass

It’s been a year since Skanska-Branch was awarded the contract to build the Western Bypass. According to VDOT’s plan, environmental reviews were to be completed by November 2012—initiating the design work by Skanska-Branch. Construction is supposed to start in March 2014, and the road would be completed in late 2016. However, it’s now June 2013 and VDOT is no closer to moving forward than they were two years ago. In short, this project was never‘shovel ready,’ as claimed by proponents.

Groups like the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA have raised significant questions about VDOT’s environmental review of the project. They are calling for a re-evaluation that includes comparison of alternatives, like Places29, which were not considered when the Bypass was first studied. Yet, VDOT continues to pressure the Federal Highway Administration to approve their current, inadequate review.

To top it off, the cost-cutting design submitted by Skanska-Branch has serious flaws. Project proponents insisted it would save travel time through the area, but a VDOT analysis of the Southern Terminus indicated little, if any, time savings. Design problems at Northern Terminus are also emerging. Solutions will not be cheap, and VDOT has not said where the additional funds needed would come from. They’ve also been silent about the impacts these changes will have on local traffic and neighborhoods.

This project is now almost a year behind schedule. With upcoming elections, VDOT and the McDonnell administration only have six months to get federal approval for this flawed project, as well as secure millions of additional funding needed to address those flaws. It is critical now for the community to continue to press VDOT for answers about this flawed project. We must continue to ask local, state, and federal officials to listen to the Army Corps and the EPA—insisting that VDOT complete a proper reevaluation; only possible through a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.

We will be sure keep the community informed of opportunities to help ensure that this wasteful project does not move forward. For more information and to take action, visit our webpage: www.pecva.org/westernbypass

 
 
 

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