VDOT Takes the Places29 Driver’s Seat (or not?)

By. Neil Williamson, President

Included in last night’s public input session on Places29 was a new twist, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) wilVDOT logol (or might) not certify the comprehensive plan section if it does not include all of the grade separated interchanges recommended in the transportation study they paid for as a part of the planning.  Without such 527 certification from VDOT, the Comprehensive Plan chapter would be invalid.

Reporting to the Board of Supervisors, Albemarle County’s Chief of  Planning David Benish prepared a PowerPoint slide that indicated “VDOplaces29_webT would not certify the comprehensive plan under Chapter 527” in his verbal presentation he changed the verb to “could”.

According to the VDOT website:

Chapter 527 of the 2006 Acts of Assembly added § 15.2-2222.1 to the Code of Virginia. The legislation establishes procedures by which localities submit proposals that will affect the state-controlled transportation network to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for review and comment. The chapter also directs VDOT to promulgate regulations to carry out the provisions of the statute.

The statute intends to improve how land-use and transportation-planning decisions are coordinated throughout Virginia by establishing standardized methodologies (definitions, analytical methods, etc.), procedures for analyzing transportation impacts and providing that information to citizens and policymakers.

Supervisor Ken Boyd bristled at the idea that VDOT (and the General Assembly), who is not providing needed road construction funding and has significant funding issues of their own would come in and dictate that the community build interchanges that it may not want.  Benish seemed to back off of his statement and slide and indicated this was not a “direct threat” from VDOT but a discussion point for staff.

Places29 Reality

The Free Enterprise Forum believes this is a critical point.  VDOT was considered a partner in the Places29 land use and transportation comprehensive plan when it started in 2005.  Now due to General Assembly action in 2006, Albemarle may have to accept (and possibly fund) the improvements dictated by the transportation study, whether the citizens agree or not.  If this is accurate, VDOT, not the locality, will drive local comprehensive planning as it relates to transportation.

Considering the the Department of Transportation’s current funding and staffing challenges, I am remain unconvinced the General Assembly has fully prepared VDOT to get behind the wheel on this issue.

If this turns out to be merely a PowerPoint slide added to the presentation by staff to use the potential of VDOT denial under 527 as a leverage point to push the interchanges forward — well that’s a horse of a different color.

More about Places 29

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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