Charlottesville 29 Bypass (VA)
Charlottesville Bypass Dealt Heavy Blow by Federal and Local Officials
The damaging Charlottesville bypass proposal has been dealt a devastating one-two punch as the Federal Highway Administration informed the state today that alternatives must be evaluated. Then at a special public hearing tonight called by the new Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, the Board passed a resolution by a 5-1 vote reinstating the Board's opposition to the bypass. Read More
Nobody doubts the need to fix traffic problems on Route 29. But the proposed $250 million Charlottesville "Western" Bypass is not the answer. 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.
GO29: Better than a bypass
Only a tiny percentage of drivers on Route 29 in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area—around 10% to 12%—are just passing through. Most of the traffic is local drivers making local trips, very few of which could use the proposed bypass to get where they’re going. If the bypass were built, these local drivers would still have to contend with Route 29’s frustrating hotspots, and the bypass would do little to improve the notoriously dangerous conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists that currently exist along the Route 29 corridor. This is why building a bypass has never made sense—it would provide such a minimal benefit to most users of Route 29, and at a major financial and environmental cost.
A far better approach is the one the Charlottesville-Albemarle community has developed: investing our transportation dollars in improving the existing Route 29 corridor by addressing the traffic backups directly, and providing more options for local drivers to access the businesses and neighborhoods located along the highway. The result is an enhanced network of parallel and connecting roads that helps remove local traffic from Route 29, and much smoother traffic flow on the highway for the drivers who remain.
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 other ways to reach destinations without having to use 29;
- Build a second compact overpass at Rio to solve this traffic snarl (similar concept to 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—a huge chunk of our area’s available transportation funds—into a single project that primarily benefits the very small percentage of drivers on Route 29 who are just passing through our area. Worse, this price tag is likely to only 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 and Albemarle 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 tens of millions of 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 route tractor-trailers within a few hundred feet—and uphill—of 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, the big boxes and new neighborhoods approved as part of the North Pointe development, and the major commercial developments springing up along Route 29 in Greene County just across Albemarle’s border. 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 and the Environmental Protection Agency have both advised that alternatives focused on improving the existing 29 corridor be seriously considered before any final commitments are made to building the proposed bypass.
Thanks to a new County Board of Supervisors and a new Governor having taken office, the Charlottesville-Albemarle community has a real chance to undo the major damage that was done 2½ years ago when members of the prior Board struck a deal with the McDonnell administration and abruptly revived the destructive bypass proposal. In February 2014, the bypass was dealt a devastating one-two punch as federal and local officials weighed in against it. First, the Federal Highway Administration informed the state that alternatives must be evaluated. Then the new Albemarle County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution by a 5-1 vote reinstating the Board's opposition to the bypass and its support for the improvements in the Places 29 master plan. It's now up to the state to advance the better solution for Route 29. Please continue to get involved.