Transportation Updates

The Western Bypass

Things are looking iffy for the proposed Western Bypass. The Federal Highway Administration is still waiting for VDOT to complete the Environmental Assess-ment for the project; a process they thought would be finished about a year ago. The causes for this delay include unresolved design issues at the Northern and Southern termini.

Meanwhile, the Bypass isn’t winning any popularity contests. At the public meetings concerning the Bypass held by VDOT, Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors, and the Metropolitan Planning Organization, over 90% of the spoken and submitted comments have opposed the Bypass.

Another Bump in the Road?

In late August, federal officials declared that a cemetery and house in the path of the Bypass are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, which could mean additional protections for the site. Important African-American leaders from the 19th century are buried in that cemetery—including Jesse Scott Sammons, an influential educator in Albemarle County, and George Ruth-erford Ferguson, Charlottesville’s first African-American physician.

It’s too soon to know how this will affect the Bypass’s approval process, but it’s certainly another bump in this nonsensical road’s path. VDOT will have to show that there are no viable alternatives to the Bypass that wouldn’t impact the historic site. “VDOT has not provided us the sched-ule for releasing the environmental assessment to the public,” FHWA spokesman Doug Hecox told Charlottesville Tomorrow, “and the [Sammon’s property] determination might change any that they were considering,” This fall will be an important time in the fight against this wasteful bypass, and PEC will keep citizens updated. For more information, check out our webpage:

The Outer Beltway

VDOT has given the infamous ‘Outer Beltway’ project yet another name. Now calling it “Bi-County Parkway,” they’re saying it’s really just a 10-mile segment of road between I-66 and Rt. 50. In August, there were quite a few memorable lines about this project from our elected officials—some highlights:

  • “This road has had many names, maybe we’ll have a contest to see what we’ll call it next.” —VA Sec of Transportation, Sean Connaughton
  • Brushing aside claims that truck traffic will increase along the route, Secretary Connaughton said that freight going to the airport is “very low volume, but very high value.”
  • “Does this happen often? Continuing forward on a project when the majority of elected officials in the area oppose it?” —Supervisor Candland, Gainesville District

This summer PEC teamed up with folks at the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Southern Environmental Law Center, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and National Parks Conservation Association to complete a transportation study of the Bi-County Parkway, as well as an alternatives analysis. Our study compared the controversial new highway to a set of alternative projects that would improve transportation in the area. Our analysis shows that there are many, more effective projects than the Bi-County Parkway.

Take a look at our alternatives analysis, and keep sending those letters to your elected officials!

This article was featured in our Fall 2013 Member Newsletter, The Piedmont View.