By. Neil Williamson, President
When someone is sworn in as a witness in a court of law, the question is always asked, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
The Albemarle’s Planning Commission wanted to have something that spoke of the Western Bypass to provide historical context regarding the decision not to consider the potential roadway as a part of the “vision” plan.
[Photo Credit Cvillepedia.org]
The Free Enterprise Forum understands the desire to provide context for the County’s decision to eliminate one potential solution from ever being considered in the Places29 plan. But we ask, if such context is desired shouldn’t the WHOLE truth be included?
Nowhere in this “history” is there mention that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) already owns much of the required right of way for the Western Bypass.
Nowhere in the “history” is it mentioned that a public information session was held in 1994 about interchanges that were a part of the three party agreement (that the “history” does mention). According to court documents:
In October 1994, a public information meeting was held to discuss the design of the grade separated interchanges to be constructed as Phase II of the Route 29 project. At the meeting, many citizens, a great number of whom represented the business community, expressed opposition to the interchanges being built at all. In fact, of the 4,372 citizens who submitted comments during or after the meeting, 3,270 opposed the construction of any of the interchanges, and 2,297 of those individuals recommended that the western bypass be constructed in lieu of the interchanges. VDOT also received correspondence requesting that the interchange phase be abandoned in favor of proceeding with the construction of the bypass. In January 1995, the City of Charlottesville passed a resolution requesting that the interchange at Hydraulic Road be abandoned. In addition, those in favor of the interchanges also voiced their opinions on the subject. On February 16, 1995, the CTB passed a resolution terminating the design and development of the interchanges and assigning the funds allocated to the interchange study to Base Case improvements and bypass development. [Emphasis added –NW]
Nowhere in the “history” is it mentioned the considerable support the western Bypass has received from both Danville and Lynchburg.
Nowhere in the “history” is it mentioned that the Western Bypass remains in the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Six Year Transportation Improvement Plan.
The “history” [currently unavailable online from the Places29 website] now reads:
A Note about the “Western Bypass.” The US 29 North Corridor Transportation Study has shown that the set of transportation improvements recommended in this Plan will be an effective and efficient means to address existing and future transportation demands for all users of the US
29 Corridor during the 20-year implementation timeframe. While the originally proposed Western Bypass would have served most of the regional traffic (the 12% of drivers moving through the Places29 area without stopping), the Bypass would not have helped local traffic (64%) or served
many of the subregional vehicle trips (24%). It was recognized in 1990 after VDOT’s consultant study of alternatives to relieve congestion in the US 29 corridor that a western bypass was not preferable to or a substitute for improvements in the corridor. In fact, in the early 1990s, the City, County, and University signed an agreement concurring with a 1990 Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) resolution that sequenced improvements such that the Western Bypass would be constructed only after completion of projects such as the widening of US 29 from Hydraulic Road to the South Fork of the Rivanna River, the Meadow Creek Parkway, grade separated interchanges on US 29 at Hydraulic Road, Greenbrier Drive, and Rio Road, and the
North Grounds Connector, and only ―when traffic on Route 29 is unacceptable and economic conditions permit. It was in the spirit of this agreement that the County actually worked to preserve the ultimate alignment of the Western Bypass in its land use decisions for several years. It was only after a subsequent decision by the CTB in 1995 to rescind the previously agreed-to sequencing of projects that the County withdrew all support for the Western Bypass, and the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) voted unanimously to withhold federal funding for construction of the Western Bypass until the agreed-upon sequencing of the projects was restored.
An alternative route from the 250 Bypass north to Greene County that would have functioned as a longer bypass to the west of US 29 was considered during the early phases of the Places29 transportation modeling, but such an alternative route would have been significantly more expensive and, most importantly, would not have served more than about 12 – 20% of the traffic on US 29.
Clearly, the “history” presented in Places29 is truthful but it is not the whole truth. Absent the whole truth, this concept of providing ideologically slanted selective “history” is a mistake and should be removed from the Places29 Master Plan.
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