A House of Cards

Forum Watch Editorial


Regular readers of Forum Watch or The Free Enterprise Forum Blog know of our many concerns surrounding Albemarle County’s Places 29 Master Planning Project. 

Now that the government has put their heads together with the consultants [and requisite public outreach meetings] the plan moving forward has a VERY conservative price tag of $250 million dollars, excluding right of way acquisition costs. 

Based on our conversations with individuals close to the numbers, we anticipate, if ever completed, the costs of this network of interlinked transportation projects will most likely exceed half a BILLION dollars.

When this cost was brought to the attention of officals working on the project, they indicated, of course, not everything would get built. But each road built provided a part of the eventual solution.

Wait a minute — this is very different than the manner in which this network of parallel roads were sold as a transportation solution.  It was the existence of the entire network that kept trips off National Highway U.S. 29. 

The economic reality of transportation funding in Virginia is that there is little to no funding available.  In addition, like it or not, based on the metrics used for evaluating congestion, the Charlottesville region’s transportation woes pale in comparison to Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.

So now we have a framework of roads that officials privately admit will likely not be built out over the time frame of the plan (20 years).

What to do next — Build on this plan. 

In addition working on the development of the Places 29 plan with Albemarle County, the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission(TJPDC) is also contracting with Fluvanna and Greene County to assist [not outsource] in writing their comprehensive plans. 

Bill Wanner, Senior Regional Planner at TJPDC thinks Places 29 should be incorporated in to the Greene County Comprehensive plan.  Quoted in the Greene County Record ( July 10, 2008 ) Mr. Wanner said, “That Plan is about how transportation is working up and down the corridor regardless of political jurisdiction.”

Based on this organizational philosophy, it would be entirely consistent that the concepts of Places 29 also be integrated into the Fluvanna County Comprehensive planning process.

There are two grave problems with this paradigm – first Greene and Fluvanna are NOT Albemarle and have unique set of transportation issues.  Second, and perhaps most important — There is near zero likelihood that Places 29 will be built in any reasonable planning horizon.

Fluvanna County and Greene County would be wise to push back on the experts they have hired to “assist” or “facilitate” their comprehensive planning process. 

Look past the pretty renderings and cool computer graphics and ask the hard questions —

Who pays for this? 

When do you think this will happen? 

How do market factors impact this plan? 

What are alternative scenarios for development?

Without a very clear and public understanding of the reality of the very pillars of the plan it is merely a house of cards, destined to fail.


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