A False Choice on US 29

By. Neil Williamson

As the Places29 master planning exercise moves forward, some are presenting this plan as the alternative to the hotly debated western bypass.  The Free Enterprise Forum contends a bypass AND some elements of Places29 might be a better plan than either option alone.  To make the discussion a decision between between a bypass ORplaces29_web Places29 is a false choice.

Again and again, the public has been told the traffic problem in Places29 is trips internal to the Places29 footprint.  I have heard 12%  of the traffic on US 29 are “through trips” (trips have both origin and destination outside the Places29 footprint).  This statistic is used to support the argument that a bypass does not solve the problem only 12% of the problem.  The Free Enterprise Forum contends that if including the bypass in the Places29 discussion reduces your throughput by 12% doesn’t that make the traffic engineering 12% easier?

Other than politics, there is no reason the western bypass, or another alignment of a bypass, could not be a part of Places29.  But politics clearly is in play. 

When the plan was in the earliest stages (three+ years ago) Albemarle County Supervisor David Slutzky stated plainly that neither the bypass nor the “Ruckersville Parkway”  should not be a part of the Places29 master plan.  In a December 22, 2009 Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting that I attended, Mr. Slutzky told the Virginia Department of Transportation VDOT his opinion of the US 29 Bypass.  Charlottesville Tommorow has the story:

Supervisor David Slutzky (Rio) asked what traffic data would be used, pointing out that some officials in Danville and Lynchburg question datathat shows that only 12 percent of traffic on US 29 in Charlottesville is through-traffic.  Springer responded that data from previous studies would be used, as well as VDOT’s transportation modeling software. However, he said that he wanted to avoid getting “stuck in the mud” on the issue.

“I think there is a fairly good idea that there is some through-traffic  through Charlottesville and Albemarle County, but it’s not a huge number,” Springer said.  “Probably any improvement we look at whether it’s coming out of Places 29 is going to address both local and through-traffic.”  Later on in the meeting, Slutzky said that he did not expect the proposed western bypass to be part of the discussion.

“It has been sufficiently debunked as a viable solution to anybody’s transportation needs,” Slutzky said.

Earlier this year, theAlbemarle County Planning Commission edited out staff’s mere mention of the Western Bypass from the Places29 report.   

Rt29logoIt will be interesting to see if the VDOT US 29 corridor study finds that a bypass should be evaluated despite the politic of the region.  Unlike Places29 the VDOT US29 study is on track to be completed by the end of the year. 

If VDOT’s study shows a bypass should be reconsidered, will Places29 be amended before it is even adopted?

5 responses

  1. What is the makeup of the 12% of through traffic? If that 12% is 90% trucks, how does that figure into the equation?

  2. Stuck in traffic | Reply

    Why don’t these people ever look at incremental improvements? For example, the city hit a home run when they made the southbound right lane of Ridge McIntire continue on past the intersection at Main. Remember the backups that used to occur there? Now one rarely has to wait through multiple cycles of the signals to cross Main street. A simple concept, inexpensively implemented in a matter of days. Get more cars through each traffic signal cycle.

    29 moves fairly well where it is 4 lanes. The crunch comes at Hydraulic because it squeezes down to three lanes for a quarter mile. There are few problems before Hydraulic or after the bypass on-ramp. Can we just fix that section?

    Increasing the through lanes of 29 at Hydraulic would be fairly easy and inexpensive compared to the proposed overpasses or bypasses. Simply use part of the center median to add a fourth southbound lane between Hydraulic and the on-ramp to the bypass. There is plenty of real estate in the median and the overpass at 250 is wide enough. No major construction projects required.

    Dedicate the two right hand lanes to bypass-bound traffic and the two left lanes to through traffic on Emmet. Take away the right-turn-only sign on the southbound right lane so it can go through Hydraulic. Expand the bypass on-ramp to handle two lanes of traffic for a few hundred yards. Put up some better signage (who the hell dreamed up that sign with the jug handle on it? Talk about confusing!). Done.

    With four southbound lanes between Hydraulic and the bypass, 33% more traffic will get through the intersection on each signal cycle, less backups will occur as the bypass-bound traffic merges to one lane.

    A similar tactic could be used on the northbound side of 29, taking one of the two left turn lanes from 29 to Hydraulic (do we really need two left turn lanes there?) and letting northbound traffic use that fourth lane before the intersection, not just after.

    Sure this is a bigger project than the Ridge McIntire fix, but it is a lot smaller than building a bypass or overpass. And an overpass does not fix the one of the problems which is the southbound traffic squeeze into a one-lane on-ramp. But hey, I’m not a traffic engineer, so what do I know?

  3. Here’s are some ideas that I enjoy almost universal support: We build the Berkmar Bridge and connect to Hollymead Town Center. Widen 29 from Hydraulic to the bypass and add a lane to the west bound on ramp. If there is any money left, build a connector from Hydraulic to the bypass. Heck, any one of the three would be a major improvement to the current situation and wouldn’t preclude a future bypass. Can we just do something?

  4. former FL resident | Reply

    Its time to start walking/biking instead of building more roads! It looks so ugly.
    Extend a bus line from Downtown to Target and airport! It is ridiculous that people drive everywhere, even if it takes a 5-10 minutes walk.
    Build some pedestrian crossings/bridges and sidewalks, especially from residential areas to nearby schools, parks and shopping areas.

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