Governor celebrates milestone in Charlottesville-area Route 29 Solutions projects More »
Local residents and numerous officials recently celebrated the opening of two more major projects designed to alleviate traffic on Route 29: the Berkmar Drive Extension parallel road and the widening of the highway along a notorious bottleneck. These two projects follow last year’s completion of an overpass at a key intersection and upgrades to a heavily used off-ramp. Each is a component of the Route 29 Solutions package of improvements undertaken by the Virginia Department of Transportation to address congestion along the busy corridor.
The projects that make up the Route 29 Solutions have been included in local and regional transportation plans for years as part of an integrated strategy for improving the Route 29 corridor for both local residents and regional travelers. The Route 29 Solutions were finally funded and advanced to construction in 2015 after federal, state, and local officials decided that the outdated and destructive Western Bypass proposal would be an ineffective investment of taxpayer dollars.
Governor Terry McAuliffe and State Transportation Secretary Aubrey Lane both were on hand to celebrate the achievement.
“The completion of these projects marks a significant milestone in a long-running debate over Route 29 in this area,” said Trip Pollard, Director of SELC’s Land and Community Program. “We have been promoting improvements to this vital corridor for more than 20 years, and the McAuliffe administration, VDOT, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, and numerous citizens deserve enormous credit for making these major improvements a reality. Route 29 will now work better for all users, as local residents have new options for reaching the many destinations located along Route 29, and our friends downstate will have an easier trip through our area.”
SELC strongly advocated for the Route 29 Solutions projects and served on the VDOT-convened panels of community representatives that recommended them and guided their implementation. VDOT incorporated many of the panels’ recommendations, which improved the design of the projects and helped minimize disruptions during construction. VDOT is using the panel approach again as it now looks to address another hotspot on Route 29 around its intersection with Hydraulic Road.
“Making meaningful improvements to a busy highway corridor presents its fair share of challenges, especially a commercial stretch like Route 29 North,” said Morgan Butler, Director of SELC’s Charlottesville-Albemarle Project. “But with VDOT, the county, and community representatives all consistently gathering around the same table to share ideas and feedback, disruptions were kept to a minimum and these smart solutions are now on the ground. There is still more important work to be done, especially in the area around the Hydraulic/29/250 triangle, but the community now has a clear recipe for success.”
Preserving a Community’s Special Character
The secret is out: the Charlottesville-Albemarle area, with its vibrant culture, rich history, and attractive neighborhoods and landscapes, is now widely considered one of the country’s best places to live. But an influx of new houses and retail space is changing the look and feel of the area. Traffic is on the rise, water quality is declining, and farms and forests are giving way to buildings and pavement.
SELC’s Charlottesville-Albemarle project is tackling these issues head on in our hometown. We are focused on ensuring a thriving community that respects and protects the natural, historic, and community resources that make the Charlottesville-Albemarle area such a special place to live.
Protecting Rural Albemarle
Albemarle’s cherished rural areas face ongoing pressure to convert more land to industrial and commercial use. Through our work to strengthen the county’s comprehensive plan and our extensive involvement in local planning decisions, SELC is defending Albemarle’s longstanding growth management policies and discouraging local leaders from making decisions that could irreversibly alter Albemarle’s distinctive rural character, undermine key segments of our local economy, and harm residents’ quality of life.
Safeguarding Local Waterways
One of the biggest threats to the area’s water quality is polluted runoff, which increases with every acre of land that is cleared and paved. SELC is helping to develop fair and effective solutions to this growing problem, including ensuring faster stabilization of denuded construction sites, placing reasonable controls on building on steep slopes in the city and county, and developing a city stormwater utility fee that encourages pavement reduction while providing funding for long-overdue work on our stormwater system.
Ensuring a Thriving Downtown
Charlottesville’s historic downtown is the heart of the broader community. While a wave of redevelopment has in many cases complemented and even enhanced the downtown area’s distinctive charm, lately a number of buildings have been built or approved that are out-of-scale with their surroundings, overwhelm historic buildings, and threaten to suffocate street life. SELC is playing an active role in updating the city’s zoning regulations and is weighing in on building proposals to ensure that new development fits the existing urban fabric and better reflects the area’s historic character.