The following text is from a March 15th, 2013 email alert:
A Tipping Point?
When it comes to the Western Bypass, I feel like I’ve been jumping up and down for a while, 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 is why the proposed Rt. 29 Western Bypass is so frustrating. VDOT continues to push for approval to spend $200 million-plus of federal funds, even after the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers expressed serious concerns about the project last fall.
The proposal is currently being reviewed by the Federal Highway Administration, who will soon make the decision on whether to sign off on the funding or not. That’s why contacting our Senators at this time is critical.
Ask them to direct the Federal Highway Administration to prepare a more up-to-date and thorough analysis of the Bypass, including an updated comparison to alternatives.
Bypass not “shovel ready”
One myth pushing the project along is that it is “shovel ready.” This is simply not true. There are many issues with the proposal that VDOT still hasn’t addressed:
- A Historic Cemetery Discovered — As if concerns from the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers weren’t enough, VDOT reported in January that a late-19th century African-American family cemetery lies in the path of the Bypass. It was missed in VDOT’s 1988 survey and they now plan to move it, despite objections of relatives.
Interred here are direct descendants of the Hemings family from Monticello — as well as Charlottesville’s first African-American doctor and the principal of Albemarle’s first African-American public school. Almost twenty years ago, VDOT moved the path of the Bypass in order to avoid several cemeteries — including a pet cemetery — but is showing little sign of rethinking their plans after this latest discovery.
- Higher Costs Than Projected — To get the project within their budget, VDOT chose a low-cost design that now appears to have problems — including longer travel times, interchanges that might contribute to congestion, not alleviate it, and omitting things entirely, like sound walls and appropriate landscaping. VDOT may try to downplay the flaws, but one this is certain: fixing these unresolved problems will ultimately cost much more.
- VDOT Doubts Its Own Plan — VDOT’s own traffic analysis shows that alternative improvements to Rt. 29 are an effective solution and that a Bypass alone will not alleviate congestion. VDOT’s 2009 Rt. 29 Corridor Study also concluded that the Bypass is “no longer an effective option to serve corridor-wide trips.” It’s not surprising that the last two Secretaries and Commissioners of Transportation decided the project was not worth pursuing.
- Widespread Concerns — A number of other well-known parties have voiced their opposition to the Bypass, including Taxpayers for Common Sense, who declared that “Congress should block any federal funding for this wasteful roadway.” Jim Rich, our region’s representative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board, was recently removed from the Board by the Governor. He strongly believes that he was removed for being an outspoken critic of the Bypass — calling it a “colossal waste of taxpayer money.” Fiscal conservative and former editor of Virginia Business, Jim Bacon, has also written numerous articles highlighting many of the flaws of the project.
Our communities deserve well-planned, community-based transportation solutions — not $200 million wasteful road projects. The decision to move forward with the Bypass is now in the hands of the Federal Highway Administration. We’ve reached a tipping point here and your voice can help determine which way this thing goes.
Albemarle County Land Use Officer
The Piedmont Environmental Council
Received this from a friend? Sign up to receive alerts and news from PEC.