SELC Says Albemarle County Must Obtain Clear Commitments Before Entering 29 Bypass Deal
In a letter to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors today, the Southern Environmental Law Center set forth the county's obligations to clarify and formally vote on commitments the state would have to meet before construction funding would be allowed to flow for the controversial 29 Bypass.
The letter, signed by Morgan Butler, SELC's Director of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Project, notes that at the board's July 13 meeting, the board stated that its support for the bypass was contingent on advancing other local, high-priority transportation projects. The board further promised the public it would not vote to remove its opposition to funding the bypass unless the other projects were included as part of the deal.
“It is essential that the County have clear, firm, and legally enforceable conditions in place as part of any vote to amend the Metropolitan Planning Organization's transportation plans to allow funding for the bypass. You cannot give up your one point of leverage and simply hope that the commitments will be met,” the letter states.
Butler emphasized that the board must develop procedurally and legally effective conditions, spelling them out and voting on them prior to any vote by the Metropolitan Planning Organization. (SELC says the public should still be afforded the opportunity to give input to the MPO at the public hearing July 27 as scheduled.)
The conditions stated by the board at its July 13 public hearing, and detailed in SELC's letter, include:
* Widening Route 29 between Rio Mills Road and Timberwood Boulevard, including safety improvements;
* Maintaining the current funding set forth in the state's Six Year Improvement Program (SYIP) for the ramp and lane improvements to the intersection of Route 29 and the 250 Bypass (commonly referred to as the “Best Buy improvements”);
* Developing an appropriate design for the northern terminus of the bypass that is acceptable to the county;
* Designing and engineering the bridge for the bypass so that it can also serve Berkmar Drive Extended;
* Completing funding for Hillsdale Drive Extension;
* Accelerating full funding for the Belmont Bridge repairs by two years in the state's SYIP.
The letter was copied to the Charlottesville City Council, which also has two representatives on the MPO, and to the director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission.
A copy of the letter can be found here.