By. Neil Williamson
In today’s (June 19) Daily Progress on Page A2 there is an odd juxtaposition of stories. The top left features an article outlining the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce opposition to the Places29 master planning process; the bottom right outline drastic cuts in Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) operations including closing 19 or the state’s 42 rest areas. To add to the cacophony, Sunday’s Washington Post featured an editorial by outgoing Governor Tim Kaine entitled “Virginia’s Unbuilt Road to Progress“.
Our analysis of all of this “chatter” is there will be continue to be significantly limited dollars for transportation projects in the short term. The Free Enterprise Forumbelieves transportation is a core government function of the state. We anticipate this will be a key issue in the Gubernatorial election this fall.
In the meantime, we also believe there is a growing recognition among Albemarle County planning staff that Places29 is not going to be built out in the terms described in the master plan. Just as we have seen the Crozet Library construction schedule slip due to financial conditions, we are starting to see a move at the staff level from ‘an integrated plan that requires all elements to be efficient’ to ‘let’s prioritize those things that might actually get built’.
The Big Five
Benish laid out five projects that he said were essential to the US29 corridor:
- Implement the earlier 29H250 studies and build Hillsdale Drive Extended
- Build Berkmar Drive Extended
- Build a grade separated intersection at Rio Road
- Widen US29 to 6 lanes north of Polo Grounds Road to Hollymead Town Center
- Create an enhanced transit system
The Free Enterprise Forum appreciates the focus Mr. Benish has provided as it is much easier for the public to understand and evaluate these five significant projects than the lengthy tome (and associated technical memorandums) that are Places29.
Will Places29, the poster child of Governor Kaine’s marriage of Land Use Planning and Transportation Planning, be reduced to a list of five significant transportation projects?
No… but reality dictates that as the highway department is closing 19 of 42 rest areas, closing 51 VDOT local residencies, and cutting roadside mowing by $20 million, the idea of launching a twenty year, half BILLION dollar road construction project in Charlottesville is not likely.
Despite a number of good aspects of the plan, The Free Enterprise Forum agrees with the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce that Places29 is fundamentally flawed. Perhaps a public discussion of the “Big Five” will help us get back on the road to reality based planning.