In our last newsletter, we shared great news regarding the demise of the ill-conceived Western Bypass. As you might recall, a major blow to the project had been delivered back in February, when the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced serious reservations about the viability of the project. It made it clear that the necessary federal approvals were indoubt unless VDOT reevaluated the entire project, including a new review of alternatives.
Big things are happening, or rather not happening, with the costly Western Bypass of U.S. Route 29 just north of Charlottesville. We’re enthusiastic to report that the ineffective project has come to a halt, and we’re hoping this time it will be a permanent road block. With the Bypass off the table, we can finally get to work on fixing Route 29 for the majority of its travelers.
Email alert text: The 2013 Election Day results show without question that the Western Bypass was a key concern for county voters. Now, with a new Board of Supervisors and a new administration in Richmond, we have a real chance to stop the construction of the Bypass and reallocate funding to more effective transportation projects.
The Charlottesville-Albemarle Transportation Coalition (CATCO) is a citizen group formed in 1988 to respond to proposed improvements to the local Rt 29 corridor. Their objective was the development of real solutions to emerging congestion problems. Their work included opposition to the Western Bypass, specifically after it was elevated as a priority ahead of previously agreed upon, more effective solutions. The CATCO Green Book summarizes these efforts through 2000. It provides an invaluable digest and summary of the genesis of the Western Bypass and why this community has long opposed it.
The saga continues. In order to keep the Rt. 29 Western Bypass proposal within their budget, VDOT accepted a “modified design” to the southern terminus last year that is significantly different than the one presented in VDOT’s Environmental Assessment. And it is now becoming clear that there are some major flaws in this cheap design — flaws related to traffic flow and safety, and that actually increase the travel time on the Bypass. This text is from an email alert we sent out on May 14th.
When it comes to the Western Bypass, I feel like I've been jumping up and down for awhile, trying to get the decision makers to pay attention. But quite recently, a number of things have happened that give me hope, and it's time to get our U.S. Senators involved. Much of the national conversation right now is focused on the debate over federal spending. And while there are strong opinions on both sides, we should all agree on one thing: any money that is spent, should be spent wisely. This text is from a March 15th, 2013 email alert.
[12/17/12] This has not been a good few weeks for those pushing the Rt. 29 Western Bypass. In late November, a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency was made public that calls into question the draft Environmental Assessment prepared by VDOT. And just last week, a letter from the Army Corps of Engineers came to light, which says:
In June 2011, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors shocked constituents by holding an unpublicized, late-night vote to resurrect the Route 29 Western Bypass, northwest of Charlottesville. Since then, VDOT—under pressure from political interests in Lynchburg and the McDonnell administration—has put the Bypass on the construction fast-track. While communities north of Charlottesville may think this bypass is only a local issue, there are compelling reasons for Virginians everywhere to pay attention—and it’s not just the quarterbillion dollar price-tag. Big picture: this bypass is part of VDOT’s vision to transform Rt. 29 into a Central Virginia Interstate; acting as an alternative to I-81 and I-95. This is not only a bad idea, it’s not feasible without a massive right-of-way acquisition and billions of dollars in funding.
Nobody doubts the need to fix traffic problems on Route 29. But the proposed $250 million Western Bypass is not the answer—nor is it a done deal. View this video produced by The Southern Environmental Law Center to learn about more cost-effective alternatives that would provide greater benefits to the Charlottesville-Albemarle community.