Report Shows 29 Bypass Would Drive Up Cost, Complexity of Berkmar Drive Extended
Building the 29 Bypass as it is currently designed will make it much more complicated and costly to build Berkmar Drive Extended, one of Albemarle County's top priorities to reduce traffic on Route 29, according to a report released today by the Southern Environmental Law Center.
The report was released in time for the Metropolitan Planning Organization's scheduled meeting on Wednesday at which the MPO may vote on whether to endorse the bypass.
A bridge over the South Fork Rivanna River is one of the most expensive pieces of the Berkmar Drive Extended project. The bypass would also include a bridge in roughly the same place. The county Board of Supervisors has promised that the bridge for the bypass would be designed to also carry traffic for Berkmar Drive Extended, so that building the bypass would help bring Berkmar Drive Extended closer to completion.
However, today's report warns that building both roads, regardless of whether they share a bridge, is much easier said than done. The report highlights the need for additional information rather than rushing the controversial 29 bypass through the approval process.
“The fundamental problem regarding the compatibility of the two roadways is that the bypass bridge across the river would be located in the same place planned for the Berkmar Drive Extended crossing,” according to the report by Michael Wallwork, a professional engineer with Alternate Street Design. “Under any scenario, trying to fit two facilities in this space would be difficult and extremely expensive.”
The report evaluates a number of different options for constructing the two roads, including designs with shared and separate bridges. Wallwork finds that all of the options add significant costs and design complications to Berkmar Drive Extended that wouldn't exist if the bypass were not built. His report concludes that, “in light of the complexity of trying to accommodate both the bypass and Berkmar Drive Extended, it would seem prudent to examine carefully the additional costs and design challenges that would be required to construct Berkmar Drive Extended if the bypass were built.”
“This is further evidence that the Board of Supervisors and MPO are lacking key pieces of information about the bypass and its impacts,” said Morgan Butler, Director of SELC's Charlottesville-Albemarle Project. “The public has been promised that the bypass would help advance Berkmar Drive Extended, a top priority in the county's Places29 master plan. But today's report indicates the opposite may be true, even if the two projects share a bridge. Our local leaders need to get a much better grasp on how the bypass would impact Berkmar Drive Extended before they vote on it, not after.
“Berkmar Drive Extended will remove a large number of vehicles from Route 29 at a fraction of the cost of the bypass and with far less damage to the community. So if building the bypass makes it less likely or even impossible that the Berkmar project gets built, we'll have sacrificed a good project for a bad one. That's not a wise deal, and it's not what the public has been promised.”
Read the Alternate Street Design report .
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional conservation organization using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of 40 legal experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.