Charlottesville 29 Bypass (VA)
African-American Historic Site in Path of Bypass Found Eligible for Federal Protection
As reported by C-ville Weekly, a federal official recently determined that an historic farmstead located squarely in the path of the proposed 29 Bypass is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The farmstead was owned by Jesse Scott Sammons, a prominent African-American educator and leader in Emancipation-era Albemarle County. In light of the federal official’s determination, VDOT must avoid the farmstead if at all possible, and it must minimize impacts to the site if there is no way it can be avoided. These issues must be worked out before the federal government may complete its ongoing environmental review of the project.
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.
Although a contract was awarded for the Bypass in June 2012, most work on the project, including final design and construction, can’t begin until VDOT completes an important environmental review and the Federal Highway Administration determines whether the project should move forward. FHWA is expected to make its decision in the coming months, and our community must continue to demand that VDOT and FHWA fully consider the GO29 alternative before irreversibly committing taxpayers to the wasteful bypass proposal.
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, and it would do little to improve conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians along the Route 29 corridor. In other words, if the bypass is built, local drivers would still have to contend with Route 29’s frustrating hotspots, and crossing Route 29 on foot or on a bike would remain extremely dangerous.
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 local destinations. Our Go29 video highlights six key pieces of the solution:
- Improve the interchange with the U.S. 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, while also providing bicyclists and pedestrians a safe way to cross Route 29;
- 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;
- 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. Worse, this price tag is only going to increase. Soon after rushing into a contract with the lowest bidder, VDOT and its consultants started raising serious concerns with the proposed design, and they are now considering substantial changes that could drive up the project’s cost even further. See our letter to VDOT on these issues
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. At its northern end, the highway would dump traffic out just south of the entrance to the Forest Lakes South neighborhood, while failing even to bypass major commercial areas like the Hollymead Town Center, UVA’s North Fork Research Park, and the big boxes and new neighborhoods approved as part of the North Pointe development. The sprawling southern terminus would forever mar the scenic western approach to Charlottesville. And everywhere 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, by building on our existing infrastructure, would inflict far less damage to our community and environment. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers--which will also have an important decision to make about whether the bypass moves forward--has agreed that alternatives focused on improving the existing 29 corridor should be considered before a final decision is made.
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 when VDOT releases its Revised Environmental Assessment in the coming months. 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.