Monthly Archives: July, 2011

VDOT Devolution Ahead?

By. John Haksch, Louisa Field Officer

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors is grappling with a disturbing new development being contemplated by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

10rel27a (connaughton pix)According to a new study announced at the end of June by Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton the state will, in the near future, be forced to make far-reaching decisions about the state-maintained secondary road system. VDOT controls over 97,000 miles of secondary roads and with a severely limited budget for their maintenance the state may be forced to ‘devolve’ responsibility for all non-primary roads to the localities they serve.

The state assumed control of the secondary road system during the hard times of the Depression era, when most localities were hard pressed to fund even the most vital of local services. Reliance on VDOT for these road services has left many localities – particularly in rural regions – with no experience with nor infrastructure for road building or maintenance.

From a VDOT Media Release:

Secretary Connaughton continued, “Our secondary road program is facing an enormous array of challenges.  VDOT’s current resources are sufficient to do a few missions well or many missions inadequately.  This report provides an excellent overview of the choices ahead.”

Several policy options are discussed in the report, including:

  • Maintaining the current policy on construction and maintenance devolution;
  • Maintaining the current policy with enhanced budgetary priority for secondary road construction and maintenance;
  • Restructuring the secondary road system;
  • Performance-based maintenance contracting on the secondary system;
  • Empowering counties to raise revenues;
  • Imposing devolution on all counties; and
  • Imposing devolution on select urban counties.

Louisa County has approximately 800 miles of existing secondary roads, mostly hard surfaced, and a backlog of more than a dozen unfunded roads projects. With the uncertainty of the future costs for roads looming large before them, the Board of Supervisors is taking a long, hard look at all cost centers from waste management, to public safety, and even the sacred cows of social services and education, with their lion’s share of the budget, to see where any efficiencies might help them avoid the public displeasure that any significant tax increase would undoubtedly bring.

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John Haksch is the Louisa County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum.  To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Lake Anna Water Supply Study

By. John Haksch, Louisa Field Officer

The Louisa County Board of Supervisors have approved the pursuit of a study to determine the economic feasibility of a water supply system for the Lake Anna communities similar to the one in place in the Zion Crossroads area.

Emphasis was placed by Board members on determining financing options and ensuring revenue neutrality. The board must tread carefully with such projects – making sure they will be self-supporting – as the majority of rural taxpayers will not benefit from capital improvements for the growth designated, higher population density area and might look askance at the reported $15.5 million price tag.

In other water supply news, Louisa County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the their legislatively mandated regional water supply plan on September 6, 2011.

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John Haksch is the Louisa County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum.  To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

US29 Western Bypass Approved 3-2 is This The End of The Beginning?

By. Neil Williamson, Presidentimage

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. 

Sir Winston Churchill – November 1942

 

This Churchill quote came to mind as the Charlottesville Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) voted 3-2 (Szakos and Huja opposed) to move forward with the US29 Western Bypass that had been authorized for funding by the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) just one week prior.  While the endeavor to improve transportation is nowhere near as important as the Second World War, the quote provides the proper context to where we stand today – and the way ahead.

The Charlottesville City Representatives on the MPO (City Councilors Kristin Szakos and  Satyendra Huja) were pressing for a delay in the 10rel27a (connaughton pix)decision as one important piece of information, a letter from Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton (photo), was received less than a half hour prior to the start of the meeting.  Szakos expressed concern that neither the balance of City Council not the City Attorney were provided the opportunity to review the letter.  After a motion to defer failed 2-3.  The motions to move the projects forward passed 3-2.

After the vote, long time bypass opponent and former MPO member, Supervisor Dennis Rooker (Jack Jouett) spoke to the Board under other matters from the public.  He indicated in his long tenure of public service he had never seen a board operate in the manner the MPO just did.  He was “ashamed” of their actions.

Earlier in the evening, some of the speakers mentioned how this vote would influence their thinking regarding how they would vote for their local representation.  Others suggested, despite the anticipated loss on this vote, their organizations would fight on – and win.

All of this is to suggest that the energized and polarized atmosphere that has been evident in the region shows no sign of dissipating and in fact will likely increase in pitch as local elections draw near.

One need only look at the approved (and previously permitted) meadowcreek closed 2community water supply plan or the long awaited Meadowcreek Parkway to see how an energized opposition can create legal, political, and regulatory roadblocks to projects. 

In addition, the fact that the MPO was split along City/County lines does not speak well for future cooperation.  There are some in the community that have suggested this dissention will lead to future conflict on the Community Water Supply Plan.  While we hope this is not the case, there was an air of resentment in the air after the vote to defer failed 2-3 last night.  Szakos stated her “disappointment” with her fellow MPO members for pushing the vote through. 

The Free Enterprise Forum is pleased that the western bypass project is moving forward; it has been a long time coming and once built it  will serve both thru and local traffic.  In addition it will promote economic vitality not only in Charlottesville/Albemarle but throughout the Commonwealth.

The vote, both for and against, required courage and conviction from the MPO members.  While we hope that both sides respect the other and put this issue in the rearview mirror, we recognize this will likely be a legal issue and a campaign issue for 2011, 2013 and beyond.

The issues and the politics that go with them are heating up as August approaches.  Stay engaged.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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

 

 

What the MPO Could Learn From Kenny Rogers

By. Neil Williamson, President

poker handThe Free Enterprise Forum has written previously about the Jurisdictional High Stakes Poker that seems to be played between the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County.  Well in today’s poker game, there is a new player with $230 million dollars in transportation funding on the table.

This afternoon at 4 pm the Charlottesville Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)  will hold its second public hearing regarding changes to its Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) at the Albemarle County Office Building (401 McIntire Road).

In an unusual move, the MPO sent a letter to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) outlining the projects it would like to see fully funded.  The letter, which the Free Enterprise Forum described as showing Chutzpah, was very careful not to make the funding of these projects as demands:

We recognize that transportation funds in Virginia are limited; however, we would appreciate consideration and support for these requests by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.  As you know, we will be considering amendments to our Constrained Long Range Transportation Plan and Transportation Improvement Program on July 27 to incorporate the US29 Bypass and hope to be able to conduct such deliberations in the context of support to assist us with our local transportation needs.

In last week’s CTB meeting, they authorized funding for for the Bypass and the widening of US 29 from Polo Grounds Road to Hollymead Towncenter.  They did not take up the balance of the MPO’s Chutzpah list.

This is where Kenny Rogers comes in.

In perhaps his most famous song The Gambler, (1978) he discusses philosophy with a fellow train traveler.  Many folks remember the quote about “Knowing when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em” but often forget the most telling passage:Kenny Rogers

Every gambler knows
That the secret to survivin’
Is knowin’ what to throw away
And knowin’ what to keep
‘Cause every hand’s a winner
And every hand’s a loser

The MPO has the opportunity to make the hand they have been dealt by the CTB into a winner or a loser.

The Free Enterprise Forum encourages the MPO to amend their plan include the Western Bypass and the widening of US29 as part of the TIP.

Anything short of this, will make this hand a loser and the community we may walk away from the table with nothing.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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

Time to Take a Stand on The US29 Bypass

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

Very rarely does the wonkish world of local public policy evoke images of Gary Cooper and “High Noon” but there seems to behigh non an ominous sense of a showdown coming at the US 29 Western Bypass hearing this Wednesday at 4 pm (not High Noon).

Where do you stand?

Will you make your voice heard this Wednesday?

Last week, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB)  voted (12-1) to allocate $230 million dollars to the US 29 Western Bypass and the widening of US 29 between Polo Grounds Road and Holymead Town Center.

The CTB did not vote (nor was it on their agenda to consider) in favor of the Christmas list that was included in a letter signed by the chair and vice chair of the  Charlottesville Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).   After our blog post regarding the letter, one commenter on the Free Enterprise Forum blog opined “I am surprised they didn’t ask for a pony”.

We have written a number of posts related to this road in recent weeks.  We are unabashedly in favor of building the Western Bypass.

It comes down to this – a vote by the MPO to accept or reject the CTB allocation of $230 million for the US 29 Western bypass and a second project to widen U.S. 29 to six lanes between the South Fork Rivanna River and Hollymead Town Center.

This morning’s front page story  in The Daily Progress by Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sean Tubbs suggests the MPO may defer a decision (as predicted by this blog last week).

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the time for a decision is now.  There has been significant citizen input and a commitment made by the Commonwealth to fund both the Bypass and widening of US29 – As a community are we really going to walk away from that??????

high_noon_clockLet me ask the question directly – Will you come down to the Albemarle County Office Building on Wednesday at 4 pm and make your voice heard?

Alternatively, you can contact the members of the MPO directly with your vision of the future of US 29.  The MPO member’s contact information:

Rodney Thomas, Chair, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
rthomas@albemarle.org
3411 N. Indian Spring Road, Charlottesville, VA 22901
(434) 242-3322

Kristin Szakos, Vice Chair, Charlottesville City Council
k.szakos@embarqmail.com
Box 911, City Hall, Charlottesville, VA, 22902
(434) 970-3113

Satyendra Huja, Charlottesville City Council
huja1@comcast.net
1502 Holly road, Charlottesville, Virginia, 22901, U.S.A.
(434) 977-5094

Duane Snow, Albemarle County Board of Supervisors
dsnow@albemarle.org
905 Leigh Way, Charlottesville, VA 22901
(434)284-0825

James Utterback, VDOT Culpeper District Administrator
James.Utterback@vdot.virginia.gov

The future belongs to those who lead and those who support them.  Make your voice heard.   I anticipate I will see you on Wednesday.

Now is the time, the state has stepped up, will you?

BUILD THE ROAD!

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

Photo Credits (Stanley Kramer Productions)

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

City Council Democratic Hopefuls Outline Their Positions

By. Amelie Bailey, 2011 Field Officer Intern

The Democratic Candidate Forum hosted this Wednesday (7/20) by Charlottesville Tomorrow and The Daily Progress, featured seven democratic candidates seeking one of three spots available on Charlottesville City Council. The forum asked candidates to indicate their position on popular topics such as the Meadowcreek Parkway, the US 29 Bypass, and the Water Supply Plan. It also gave an opportunity for audience members to ask questions of the candidates as well as a chance for candidates to ask questions of one another.

Blount-ColetteColette Blount promised to give attention to education including job training, and environmental stewardship in her opening statements. She placed emphasis on meeting the needs of a cross section of Charlottesville residents, especially underrepresented groups. According to Mrs. Blount, community input, accountability, and a local economy are top responsibilities that Council should be engaged in.

Mrs. Blount does not support construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway, nor does she support construction of the US 29 Bypass as it is currently proposed. She supports dredging and water conservation efforts before construction a new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir. Her transportation goals include improving mass transit based on population projections. However, she expressed concern that if Charlottesville becomes too accessible, it will induce additional traffic. Mrs. Blount says that she plans to address affordable housing through local solutions such as cottage industries, rather than encouraging citizens move to areas outside of Charlottesville, however she clarified later in the evening that this did not mean that she was opposed to growth.

DEDE_portrait_200Dede Smith named her top priorities as conservation of resources, accountability, respect and equal opportunity for all citizens, and education, beginning in a safe and affordable home. Her goal for the city school system is to close achievement gaps and increase graduation rates at Charlottesville High School.

Smith supports neither the construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway, nor the US Western Bypass as it is currently proposed, and has spearheaded efforts to support dredging and water conservation before construction of a new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir. When asked about her transportation plan for the city, Smith expressed an interest in creatively reducing automobile traffic through multiuse trails and mass transit, following examples of cities that have successfully implemented mass transit.

Satyendra Huja is the sole incumbent amongst the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         candidates. In seeking a second term, Mr. Huja stated that he intends to improve transit, and promote quality education, workforce development, and decent housing options. In response to questions about his plans for transportation improvements, Huja listed goals of creating an interconnected web of bicycle and pedestrian paths, and more dependable transit service. Mr. Huja also supports construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway for its access to downtown and its ability to reduce congestion in the Park Street residential neighborhood. However, Huja only said that he “maybe” supports a US 29 Bypass.

When asked about improving the school system, Huja stated that he would like to lower the dropout rate, and add more focus on education for very young children (ages 3-4). He also articulated an interest in making sure that every student is challenged.

Paul BeyerPaul Beyer voiced interest in the promotion of economic and cultural expression of Charlottesville, especially through job creation and small businesses during his opening statements. Mr. Beyer supports construction of both the Meadowcreek Parkway, and a US 29 Bypass if fully funded by the state along with other local projects including Belmont Bridge replacement, Hillsdale Drive Extended, Berkmar Drive Extended, widening of Route 29, and improvements to the “Best Buy Ramp”. Beyer does not support a dredging and water conservation alternative to the new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir, and later in the forum, expressed desire for City Council to move on from the issue of the water supply plan in order to make time to discuss other priorities.

When asked how he would support improvements in the Charlottesville School System, Beyer said that Council should focus on job creation and vocational training to ensure students have jobs after they graduate.

Brevy cannonBrevy Cannon emphasized the need for middle class jobs coupled with job training to solve the issue of high cost of living and affordable housing in Charlottesville. Mr. Cannon also believes in attracting and retaining businesses through tax incentives. Cannon cited the planned biotechnology park as one of the best career ladder jobs for Charlottesville residents to pursue. He supports the model it follows: investing in old infrastructure to create new industry that can grow.

Cannon supports both the Meadowcreek Parkway and the proposed US 29 Bypass as currently proposed if fully funded by the state along with other local projects listed above. However, he views dredging as a necessary maintenance measure that must happen before a new dam is built. He clarified later in the evening that he is not opposed to building the dam at Ragged Mountain, only that he believes dredging South Fork Rivanna Reservoir should be the starting point in addressing community water needs.

james halfadayJames Halfaday listed hard work, determination and perseverance as the leadership skills he plans to bring to Council. His priorities are educating community members, and equal opportunities for citizens to live prosperous and fulfilling lives. Mr. Halfaday supports construction of the Meadowcreek parkway and the US 29 Bypass if fully funded by the state along with other local projects as listed above. Halfaday also supports dredging before creating a new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir. When asked the top responsibilities of Council, Mr. Halfaday mentioned accountability to residents of Charlottesville, education, and making fiscally conservative decisions.

Kathy Galvin-Head-Shot-300x272Kathleen Galvin expressed during opening statements her desire to create “greener, smarter, stronger” Charlottesville, with plans to foster economic growth while minimizing urban footprint.

Galvin supports construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway, but not US 29 Bypass as it is currently proposed. According to Galvin, City Council should be engaged in visioning, strategic planning and monitoring its own performance. When asked the best opportunities to develop career-ladder jobs for Charlottesville residents, Galvin named investment in infrastructure, and promoting local industry. She reiterated these points in defense of a school configuration project (referencing Buford Middle School) estimated (according to audience member) to cost upwards of $40 million. Galvin explained that the project was an opportunity to rethink pedagogy, and create a civic center that could inspire revitalization along Cherry Avenue.

The Democratic primary is scheduled for Saturday, August 20 at Burley Middle School. At this event, three of the Democratic Candidates will be nominated for the general election ballot.

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Amelie Bailey is the 2011 Field Officer Intern for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

All photos (except  Satyendra Huja) credit:  individual campaign websites

Satyendra Huja photo credit: City of Charlottesville

How “Business 29” May Save “Places29”

By, Neil Williamson, President

Now that the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) has voted to fund the US29Western Bypass and the widening of US29 from Polo Grounds Road to Hollymead, how will this fit with Albemarle County’s approved Places 29 Master Plan?Places-29-8

Like a glove – the new urban boulevard “Business 29 “ will allow for the private sector to embrace the Places 29 Vision– let me explain.

The Places29 Vision Statement:

Albemarle County’s four Northern Development Areas will feature compact development consisting of residential and employment neighborhoods that are organized around centers.

These neighborhoods and their centers will be pedestrian-oriented and mixed-use; they will offer a variety of housing choices, retail environments, office types, and employment opportunities.

They will be connected by an attractive, efficient, and accessible multimodal transportation system.
Integrated into this urban-style development, parks and open spaces will provide a sense of respite and contribute to an overall excellent quality of life.

Places29 Bistro Corner

Such design is often referred to as either “New Urbanism” or “Traditional Neighborhood Design” (TND).

These development designs, as well as Albemarle’s Neighborhood Model, have mixed use and pedestrian orientation as primary guiding principles.  How the traffic moves through these streets is a critical part of the design construct.

In his paper regarding New Urbanist streets, presented to the Urban Land Institute in 2000, Engineer C. “Rick” Chellman writes:

New Urbanist projects include the design of streets that create an environment where drivers will realize that to drive too fast or too aggressively is inappropriate, anti-social
and, perhaps most effectively, uncomfortable. With the appropriate design techniques, drivers will more automatically choose the lower target speeds and less
aggressive behaviors desired by the planners. In this desired “self-enforcing” environment, both motorists and non-motorists will feel more equivalent occupants of each particular New Urbanist street; this sense of equivalency should be a design goal as it will enhance the livability of the street and neighborhood.

houston-light-rail

Houston Light Rail

Working with The American Dream CoalitionThe Free Enterprise Forum has visited several of the leading new urbanists regions across the US over the last eight years.  While many of the communities visited had transit (usually light rail) in their core, none had a national highway running through the new urbanist districts.

As an example, Houston, Texas is surrounded by  high speed highways that keep traffic that wants to be somewhere else moving while allowing mobility in the downtown area.

Seattle Preserving the American Dream9

Bellvue, WA "Super Block"

In Bellvue, Washington, the private sector has embraced the new urbanist design and built superblocks to increase human scale and pedestrian orientation.  While there is significant vehicular traffic around the downtown, the majority of the through trips stay on the bypass just north of the downtown district.

seattle Preserving the American Dream7

Bellvue, WA Bus Stop

Bellvue’s transit stops are designed to fit into the pedestrian streetscape. Interestingly underneath three of the four corners of this intersection is an enormous parking garage that is linked via underground tunnels to the commercial buildings.

places 29 transit friendlyLooking over the renderings included in the Places29 Master Plan it seems clear that the vision is of a mixed use urban boulevard with sidewalk cafes, bike lanes and wide pedestrian sidewalks.

This vision is consistent throughout the planning document until you get to the US29 design.

Places29 RealityOne has to feel for the planner attempting to reconcile a highway of national significance with a master plan for the north downtown commercial area.  To achieve this goal the Places29 Plan calls for a series of overpasses to effectively remove those vehicles that have no intention of stopping,  away from the commercial and pedestrian activities.

Places29 identified this concern in its third chapter:

US 29 acts as a strong spine connecting all four of the Northern Development Areas. At present, the design of US 29 generally reflects the differences in character that exist between the southern and northern Development Areas. Further, the frontage conditions along US 29 affect the overall character of the adjacent development. However, this ―spine also acts as a major impediment to connectivity for any travel mode other than the auto. This barrier effect needs to be overcome in the long range planning for the area.

To address this the plan calls for a wide design that is contrary to the urban boulevard concept.  Places29 envisions US 29 as:

Pedestrian activity in an area designated Urban Frontage is different for US 29 than on other Entrance Corridor streets. On US 29, pedestrian activity is focused primarily on access to mass transit, as well as the ability to walk safely and conveniently for short distances along the corridor. The expected US 29 Urban Frontage condition is illustrated in Figure 7.3 below.image

Figure 7.3. A cross section of US 29 showing an Urban Frontage. Note that an 8 – 12 foot
pedestrian path may be substituted for the sidewalk on one side.

With US29 Western Bypass taking the through trips (and many others)urban frontage out of the corridor.   “Business 29” can work with a  much smaller road cross section and lower speed limit.  The old/new road will be designed to link the community rather than divide it.

As we documented in our Workplace29 report, the North US 29 Corridor is home to over 20,000 jobs and a payroll exceeding 800 million dollars.  This district produces over 40% of all local tax revenue for Albemarle County.  With the advent of “Business 29” the economic vitality of this region will significantly improve and the potential of the mixed use, pedestrian oriented reality for the corridor is clearly more attainable.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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

Photo credits Free Enterprise Forum, Other images: Albemarle County

City Council Meeting Highlights Water Supply Planning and Western Bypass

By. Amelie Bailey, 2011 Field Officer Intern

Agenda items of popular interest such as a water supply plan update, and a report on the proposed US 29 Bypass drew a crowd to Monday night’s (718) Charlottesville City Council meeting.

During public comment, Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson urged Council to comply with the 2006 adopted water supply plan. Williamson was joined by several other citizens who expressed appreciation for the vast increase in storage capacity and cost effectiveness of building a larger dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir. Others spoke in favor of a dredging alternative, claiming that the amount of water gained by dredging the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir would be sufficient to meet community needs for several decades.

No Council action was taken at the meeting in regards to either the Water Supply Plan or the US 29 Bypass. Rather, staff gave reports on the progress of several projects.

Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority (RWSA) Executive Director, Tom Frederick, updated Councilors on the progress of RWSA’s request for permit modification for construction of the new dam at Ragged Mountain Reservoir. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VDEQ) requested clarification on aspects of the project and designated the permit modification as a major modification, meaning it will require a public comment process. However, Mr. Frederick assured Council that both the designation of the modification as major and the letter requesting clarification were routine.

Frederick also reported the status of the RFP for dredging South Fork Rivanna Reservoir. HDR, a consultant for RWSA, completed a feasibility study, which suggested that dredging upper portions of South Fork Rivanna Reservoir could be completed at a relatively low cost. Currently, the RWSA Board of Directors is considering a PPEA (Private Public Education Act) method of securing a contractor. The benefit of a PPEA process is that it provides more flexibility to contractors. HDR has organized certain steps to facilitate a successful PPEA process.

The Board of Directors adopted HDR’s recommended first step, called “Market Sounding”, in which dredging contractors are interviewed on the proposed project’s merits. Recommendations from these contractors are expected in August, and will determine whether to continue with a PPEA method, or switch to a more traditional contracting process. If the PPEA process is selected, HDR will narrow the boundaries of contracts and develop a proposal evaluation plan, which will establish technical criteria for selecting a contractor.

AECOM, a consultant for RWSA, reported to Council on the water demand analysis for human needs as a component of the Regional Water Supply Plan. AECOM’s representative outlined the progress towards developing Water Demand Forecasts for a fifty year planning time frame, and explained to Council the various factors considered when forecasting. Preliminary forecasts have examined historical water use in the context of economic and climate conditions. AECOM also has considered population and employment forecasts, current and future water conservation efforts, and baseline water demands (which assume that current trends will continue into the future) in developing forecasts for future water demand. The Final Water Demand Forecast is scheduled to be complete by September, and the Water Supply Plan as a whole must be submitted by November to Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia State Water Control Board.

Council received updates on the next steps in the process of considering construction of a US 29 Bypass. In its last meeting, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) decided to request funding for several local projects in a letter to the Secretary of Transportation. The MPO requested full funding for the completion of Hillsdale Drive Extended, full funding for lane improvements to the US 29/ 250 Bypass interchange, a conceptual design for Berkmar Extension, funding for the Northtown trail, funding for Belmont Bridge for FY2014 (rather than FY2016), and additional transit to Hollymead Town Center and the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport. Funding for these projects is a determining factor in whether the Policy Board will support the US 29 Bypass.

The next MPO meeting (scheduled for 7/27) will be the first opportunity for the Policy Board to vote on whether to add construction of the US 29 Bypass to the Constrained Long Range Transportation Plan (CLRP) and the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).

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Amelie Bailey is the 2011 Field Officer Intern for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

US 29 Western Bypass Chutzpah

By. Neil Williamson, President

Only in Charlottesville will you find local officials with the chutzpah to make additional funding “requests” when presented with statewide funding for a National Highway.us 29 logo

The Charlottesville Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is poised to send a letter to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) requesting funding for a laundry list of local projects that will help the MPO “understand the context” in which they are voting for or against the US 29 Western Bypass.

As Charlottesville Tomorrow reported:

After the public hearing, the MPO agreed to send a letter to the CTB explaining the conditions under which it will support a bypass. . . .

“We don’t know how much money there is or where it will be coming from,” [Supervisor Duane] Snow said. “This is just a letter to say what we want and what we expect.”

The CTB is scheduled to meet in Richmond on Wednesday of this week and as of this writing (Monday morning) the MPO letter has not yet been finalized.  The discussion at the MPO meeting on Thursday included the following “requests”:

  1. Full funding for the US 29 Western Bypass
  2. A completed design of the US 29 Western Bypass northern terminus, which will include public participation of Albemarle County citizens, particularly Forest Lakes and Hollymead citizens
  3. Full funding for the widening of US 29 between Polo Grounds Road and Hollymead Town Center
  4. Full funding for conceptual design of Berkmar Drive Extended
  5. Full funding for design and construction of a shared use (Bypass/Berkmar Extended) bridge over the Rivanna River
  6. Full funding of the US 29/250 Bypass additional entrance rams and interchange improvements (commonly refereed to as the “Best Buy ramp” projects
  7. Full funding of Hillsdale Drive Extended (being designed by the City of Charlottesville)
  8. Funding for the Belmont Bridge Replacement in the City moved forward from fiscal year 2016 to Fiscal Year 2014
  9. Funding for extension of public transit service to Hollymead Town Center
  10. A CTB resolution indicating that Charlottesville and Albemarle transportation projects currently in the MPO Transportation Improvement Program will have no funding reductions as a result of the US 29 Western Bypass.

There was also significant discussion of requesting funding for the Northtown Trail  the first continuous inter-jurisdictional biking facility in the Charlottesville/Albemarle urbanized area. The consensus at the meeting seemed to be not to request this additional funding.

The Free Enterprise Forum is concerned this list of “requests” is being designed as a pretext to deny approval of the Western Bypass by the MPO.   Of the ten items on the list, numbers 7, 8 and 9 seem only tangentially related to the US 29 Western Bypass and might be perceived by some as political horse trading.

The MPO is now in a most interesting dance with the CTB.  The CTB will receive a letter of “requests” some time after Noon on Monday and the MPO expects them to have decisions in their Wednesday meeting.  The CTB may  not be able to address all the issues raised in the letter as a part of their July meeting.  They may chose to take action on some of the items or withhold action until all can be addressed.

If they defer, this would allow the MPO to hold its second public hearing on July 27th but postpone their action until such a time that the CTB answers all their “requests”.

In the Charlottesville Tomorrow article Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC)  Executive Director Stephen Williams seemed to anticipate this eventuality when:

Williams said there is a chance the CTB will not be able to reach agreement at its meeting next week as to how  to reallocate money from other projects. That would mean the MPO could not vote to amend the TIP at the July 27 public hearing.

With the CTB not scheduled to meet in August, the next opportunity for action is their September 21st meeting.  If such a scenario plays out, it would more than likely push any MPO action into October.

While generally appreciative of the sloth’s pace of most government action, Governor McDonnell’s transportation funding priorities do have a sense of urgency. The Free Enterprise Forum hopes that the lengthy, thoughtful MPO “Wish List” doesn’t result in these much needed statewide transportation dollars going to into another, perhaps more receptive community.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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

MPO First Public Hearing Produces CTB Letter

By Amelie Bailey, 2011 Field Officer Intern

Following the marathon that was Wednesday night’s (7/13) Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meeting, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Policy Board met on Thursday for another round of public comment on proposed construction of the controversial US 29 Western Bypass.

29 w bypass alignmentThe proposed Bypass would extend 6.24 miles, connecting US 250/US 29 to a northern terminus which would be built across from Ashwood Blvd.

Thirty-eight speakers expressed disapproval of the Bypass, reiterating many of the complaints voiced the night before, including concerns for pollution close to water supply and schools, as well as the road’s failure to bypass the entirety of Albemarle County’s urban area.

Twenty- one speakers (including Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson) reiterated their support of the bypass for reasons including economic development, easing congestion, and safety.

On Wednesday, July 20th the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) will meet to consider funding of  the US 29 Western Bypass as well as other projects.

After their second public hearing, the MPO will have the option of adding US 29 Bypass to the Constrained Long Range Transportation Plan (CLRP) and the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).   Steve Williams, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), recommended that the MPO Policy Board outline their priorities for local transportation improvements to the CTB, and request funding for these priorities in exchange for building a Western US 29 Bypass.  The CTB can not fund a project the MPO does not endorse.

In considering their letter to the CTB, the Policy Board honed in on a list of several projects, including funding for completion of Hillsdale Drive Extended, improvements to the “Best Buy Ramp”, a conceptual design for Berkmar Drive Extended, design and construction of a dual use (bypass/Berkmar) bridge over the Rivanna river,  full funding for Belmont Bridge for FY2014, transit service extensions to Hollymead, Forest Lakes, and Charlottesville Albemarle Airport, and finally, funding for the North Town Trail. The Policy Board acknowledged that it is unlikely that the CTB will agree to fund all of the requested projects.

In a 4:0 vote (VDOT’s Jim Utterback abstaining) the Policy Board approved a letter naming the listed projects as priorities, though city representative Kristin Szakos noted that this does not mean that she is committed to voting for the bypass.

A second MPO public hearing will be held July 27th in Lane Auditorium at 4 pm. This will be the first opportunity for the MPO to take a vote on whether to amend the CLRP and the TIP to include the US 29 Bypass, but Williams also suggested this vote could also take place at a subsequent meeting.

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Amelie Bailey is the 2011 Field Officer Intern for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization. If you find this report helpful, please consider supporting the Free Enterprise Forum. To learn more visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Map Image Credit: VDOT