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 OR 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.
It 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?