by Neil Williamson, President
Yesterday’s (April 12) print edition of the Daily Progress featured this doughnut dropping headline:
The idea that Charlottesville may be a bottleneck for freight headed north and south is not a new concept. Local officials have long acknowledged this concern but answered that such through traffic makes up only 10 – 20% of the total vehicular volume, so is not really a problem for local officials.
State officials charged with keeping Virginia moving may have a different perspective.
The study commissioned by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Multimodal Transportation office focuses on the importance of U.S. 29 to freight traffic as a part of the Commonwealth Transportation network. Phase I of the Virginia Statewide Multimodal Freight Study was released on April 11th and found that statewide:
Through truck movements represent around 43 percent of Virginia truck tonnage. According to TRANSEARCH, the routing patterns for this tonnage tend to concentrate on
a few key routes: I-81, I-95, and I-77, and to a lesser extent I-85 and U.S. 29.
…truck tonnage with a Virginia trip purpose (inbound, outbound, and internal traffic) is heaviest along I-95 and the Washington Beltway; next heaviest along I-64, I-66, I-81, I-77, I-85, and U.S. 13; and next heaviest along U.S. 29,
U.S. 460, U.S. 360, and other state routes. The highest densities of truck activity are at Virginia’s major population hubs: Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Hampton Roads,
with concentration also visible at Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Charlottesville
Why is the movement of freight important to the State of Virginia? Again according to the Phase I report:
Around 50 percent of Virginia’s output, 28 percent of its gross state product, and 34 percent of its employment, is from freight-related industries that depend heavily on the
movement of raw materials, intermediate goods, and/or finished products. Virginia ranks among the faster growing states in the nation, whether measured by its rising
population, overall income gains, or economic growth. The robust pace of economic growth puts pressure on the Commonwealth’s transportation system as well as on all
other aspects of its infrastructure. [Emphasis added-nw]
On a more local level this is more than just about product, it is clearly about jobs. According to the Virginia Employment Commission Albemarle County had 4,960 jobs in the “freight intensive” industry cluster in 2004.
In releasing Phase II of the report earlier this week, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton said, “The findings and recommendations in this report will help shape an effective freight transportation policy.”
The Free Enterprise Forum found the description of the Charlottesville Bypass on page 318 (of 523 pages) to be most interesting as the road is described as having a “High Impact” on Freight Transportation.
The question for the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which oversees all transportation projects, and is four months late on their own US 29 Corridor study, is now that the seminal freight report has illuminated the benefits of a Bypass; what now?
Will a Bypass ever be built?
If so, when?
If not, what is the expectation of level of service based on freight traffic doubling by 2035 (according to the report)?
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, Louisa and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org