Va. Transportation Board Shifts Funds to Build Controversial Charlottesville Bypass
The Commonwealth Transportation Board, in a dramatic alteration to the statewide long-range transportation funding plan it passed just last month, voted today to earmark almost $200 million to build the controversial Route 29 Bypass of Charlottesville, siphoning money away from potential projects around the state..
At the request of Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton, the board approved the earmark as an amendment to the Six-Year Improvement Program. The amendment is part of an all-or-nothing deal the secretary has offered the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors in an attempt to get the county to abandon its longstanding opposition to the bypass, which a vast majority of Charlottesville-Albemarle residents oppose.
In a late-night surprise move in June, after the deal was discussed privately with only some supervisors, the county board voted 4-2 to reverse position and revive the bypass.
Details of the deal have only recently come to light. In exchange for its support on the bypass, the county was promised funding for other transportation projects along Route 29. At today's meeting, the Commonwealth Transportation Board passed an additional amendment earmarking more than $30 million for only one of those projects, the widening of a section of Route 29 north of Charlottesville.
The transportation board's amendments will drain a $160 million fund that had been set aside for projects eligible for federal funds, and take roughly $70 million from a fund for public-private partnerships. (The bypass is not be a public-private project.)
A statement from Trip Pollard, Director of the Southern Environmental Law Center's Land and Community Program
“The board's hasty decision today is a reckless use of taxpayer funds. It throws good money after bad, shoveling another $200 million into an outdated project that studies show won't solve traffic congestion on the stretch of Route 29 in question.
“The McDonnell Administration prides itself on sound fiscal management, yet this action clearly deviates from that principle. It's astonishing the administration pushed this vote through despite the state's own studies showing that the bypass offers minimal traffic relief.
“Virginia has many transportation needs competing for limited money, and shifting these funds will shortchange other projects statewide. That's not sound planning, especially when there are far more effective and less costly alternatives to reduce congestion on Route 29 in the Charlottesville area.
“We urge the Governor, Secretary Connaughton, and the Commonwealth Transportation Board to use this money for projects that will generate far greater benefits-including projects to improve the Route 29 corridor.”