Charlottesville 29 Bypass (VA)
Haste Makes Waste and the Washington Post Weighs In
The major problems bubbling up with the southern interchange for the bypass should not be surprising to anyone, given the way VDOT officials rushed to execute a contract last year. Not even VDOT itself can claim surprise—the defects were brought to its attention well before it signed the contract. But the problems are serious, and more are likely on the way. To read SELC’s comment letter, click here.
The latest problems are just the latest to cause objections to the project, with The Washington Post weighing in on June 15 with a strongly critical column, saying the "proposed six-mile highway outside Charlottesville is so wasteful and ill-conceived that it’s achieved literary status." Read the column.
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. SELC and our partners are strongly advocating a solution that is more cost-effective, less destructive, and will provide greater benefits to the Charlottesville-Albemarle community.
Watch the GO29 video here.
Although a contract was awarded for the Bypass in June 2012, final design work and construction can’t begin until an important environmental review is completed and the Federal Highway Administration determines whether the project should move forward. Our community should demand that VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration fully consider the GO29 alternative before a final decision is made.
GO29: Better than a bypass, and more cost-effective
The proposed Western Bypass would offer only minimal time savings to drivers passing through the area. It offers even fewer benefits to local drivers, who make up the vast majority of traffic on Route 29. In other words, if the bypass is built, local drivers will still have to contend with Route 29’s frustrating hotspots.
We can’t bypass our problems. Our community has developed an approach that addresses traffic backups directly, and also gives drivers more ways to reach destinations. Our Go29 video highlights six key pieces of the solution:
- Improve the interchange with the 250 Bypass near Best Buy;
- Build a compact overpass at Hydraulic Road to eliminate a major source of congestion and allow through-traffic on 29 to flow without stopping;
- Extend Hillsdale Drive parallel to 29 to give local drivers ways to reach destinations without having to use 29;
- Build a second compact overpass at Rio to solve this traffic snarl (same concept as Hydraulic);
- Extend Berkmar Drive up to Hollymead Town Center and beyond, so that drivers could go from Kmart to Lowe’s to Target without getting on 29; and
- Eliminate the bottleneck between the Rivanna River and Hollymead by widening 29 in both directions.
Taken together, these improvements are more cost-effective, less environmentally destructive, and provide greater benefits than the proposed 29 Bypass.
GO29: A Better Deal for Taxpayers
The proposed 29 bypass would sink nearly $250 million of taxpayer funds into a single project that would offer only minimal time savings to drivers passing through the area. In contrast, the Go29 approach improves the 29 corridor for all drivers—those who live and work in Charlottesville as well as those passing through. And, based on cost estimates in state and regional transportation plans, the six projects highlighted in the Go29 video would cost taxpayers approximately $70 million dollars less than the bypass. With transportation funding in such short supply—and likely to be even more scarce in the future—we must invest in projects that offer the greatest benefits.
GO29: Better for Our Community
The Bypass—with all of its noise, asphalt, and air pollution—would run adjacent to six K-12 schools and a senior living facility. It would come close to the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir, bringing new threats to our drinking water. The northern terminus would dump traffic out just south of the entrance to the Forest Lakes South neighborhood, while the sprawling southern terminus would forever mar the scenic western approach to Charlottesville. In between, the bypass would leave a permanent scar on our local landscape. Nothing could be more out of character for a community that takes pride in being one of the most beautiful places to live in the country.
In contrast, the improvements in the Go29 package build on our existing infrastructure, inflicting far less damage to our community and environment.
VDOT and FHWA can't make an informed decision about whether to proceed with the bypass until they have fully considered this better alternative. The Charlottesville-Albemarle community will have a critical opportunity to demand just that. In the meantime, please help us spread the word that a better solution exists. Watch the GO29 video, share it with your friends and neighbors, and learn about other ways to get involved.