VDOT Study Calls for Charlottesville Bypass

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 2004.10rel27a (connaughton pix)

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)?

Stay tuned.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson


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, Louisa and Nelson County.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org




7 responses

  1. And why haven’t we seen coverage of this in other area media?? Typical head-in-the-sand attitude. Charlottesville/Albemarle live in a state of denial. “Bypass” is virtually a banned word around here. How is this playing in Lynchburg and Danville?

  2. What is even more telling is the fact that in the Charlottesville area, only the Daily Progress reported on the VDOT Study, (and then only in the print edition). NBC 29 web site had a short mention, but only on the fact that the Lynchburg News and Advance ran an editorial supporting the study and calling for the bypass…..

  3. You seem to think that this study should convince the residents of Charlottesville that they need the bypass? I think the opposite. The quality of life and the commute to Charlottesville from Albemarle and the adjacent counties along route 29 will be a more difficult and dangerous commute if more truck traffic is attracted to Route 29.

    Why would anyone who lives in our region be in favor of attracting more freight trucks to Route 29?

  4. The traffic congestion situation in Charlottesville is a disgrace. It reflects unfavorably on both Charlottesville singularly, and on our Commonwealth as a whole. I have traveled on roads around the country, and around the world, and have chosen to settle in Virginia because of its numerous wonderful attributes. The horrendous multi-lane sprawl in Charlottesville is not one of those attributes. It’s dangerous, ugly, annoying to through-traffic, destructive to commerce, and simply an embarrassment. Though the local forces opposing the bypass are understandable, they are selfish and shortsighted, not to mention doomed. This bypass has got to be built, and it’s going to be built.

    A previous poster asked the reasonable question: “Why would anyone who lives in our region be in favor of attracting more freight trucks to Route 29?” I respectfully submit the answer that the bypass will reduce the aggregate driving danger to our region, as well as make Charlottesville more marketable, and less susceptible to well-deserved contempt by through-travellers.

    Regards, Rick.

  5. […] In April, VDOT’s Freight study endorsed the idea of a Western US 29 Bypass. […]

  6. I have “well deserved contempt” for individuals in our state and local government and a few private individuals who will profit financially or politically from this project, manipulating our local board of supervisors and bypassing the democratic process.

    Our Albemarle County Board of Supervisors are an “embarrassment.”

    “Selfish” is a very subjective term often used by a minority who will profit financially or politically from this bypass to overrun a majority who will suffer loss of quality of life, safety, noise, unwanted development and environment.

    The Charlottesville bypass in its present proposed location wastes $300,000,000 of Virginia taxpayers money for a road proven by VDOT’s own studies to be ineffective for improving local traffic conditions. The cost per mile for “through traffic” is very high compared to the alternatives. Read the studies. Attention Lynchburg: If we put this bypass here now, you will never get an effective bypass where it needs to be.

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