Press Release | July 28, 2011

SELC Statement on Charlottesville-Albemarle MPO Vote to Approve 29 Bypass

A statement from Morgan Butler, Director, SELC Charlottesville-Albemarle Project:

“SELC and most others in this community believe the 29 bypass is the wrong project for solving traffic on Route 29, but one thing nearly everyone agrees on is that it shouldn’t go forward without ironclad commitments from the state to fund and advance key local transportation priorities.

“A divided MPO has given this community the worst of both worlds.  The obsolete, expensive and destructive bypass proposal is now one step closer to reality, yet we have no enforceable commitment from the state on several of the local projects that supervisors promised.

“Two weeks ago, the county’s MPO representatives assured us they would not support the bypass without clear commitments from the state.  Just minutes before last night’s meeting, a letter from Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton was given to MPO members stating he will merely recommend funding-next year, no less-for two of the priority projects.  And it contains no assurance that the bypass bridge would be designed to also serve Berkmar Drive Extended, another key condition of county support.

“The most troubling aspect of last night’s vote was that it even occurred at all.  MPO members did not have time to read the letter fully before the meeting, and the public was in the dark. Despite a reasonable request from Councilmembers Szakos and Huja to defer a vote for a few weeks to allow them to assess the letter more thoughtfully, share it with their fellow Councilors and the City Attorney, and provide it to the public, a majority of the MPO board forced a vote to approve the so-called deal.

“Forcing a vote last night when such critical information was delivered at the last minute is a fitting culmination to a public process that was a travesty from the start.  And now we’re left with exactly what we didn’t want-one very expensive and damaging project that will do little to reduce congestion on 29, and vague promises on a number of the projects that would.

“A lot has changed since this proposal last saw daylight, so there are still a number of legal, design, and other requirements the state must work through before it can be built.  SELC will be watching with a close eye to make sure those obligations are fully met.”

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