Do Western Bypass Opponents Believe Gridlock is Good?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Some of the opponents to the US 29 Western Bypass are using the same logic as stated in the 1968 Jerry Lewis film “Don’t Raise the Bridge, Lower the River”. don't raise the bridge

Rather than working to accommodate all modes of travel, these critics suggest the best way to solve the transportation challenges is to reduce our cultural auto dependency by making travel more painful and more costly.  “Gridlock is Good” seems to be their mantra.

Writing an opinion piece in Sunday’s (7/10) Daily Progress, local author Randy Salzman (“Yes We Can: Getting Americans to Back Away from the Steering Wheel”) wrote:

The pattern is so clear around the world that, as a New York Times article pointed out two weeks ago, many communities are antagonizing drivers through slower speed limits, extra pedestrian-friendly traffic lights, traffic-calming devices and even charging them for using the roads during congested periods, in order to pry people away from their steering wheels. The rest of the world is recognizing that making driving easier, while perhaps being a plus for any given individual, is a massive negative for the society through the pollution, greenhouse emissions and oil consumption it creates.

Interestingly on the front page of Sunday’s  Daily Progress Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sean Tubbs has an article on last week’s Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Transportation Plan Citizen Advisory Committee (CHART).  In the report, he quotes CHART member and Charlottesville resident,  Stephen Bach:

“I think it might be a really positive thing if nothing got done,” Bach said. “The price of gasoline is not always going to be $4 a gallon and I think that the idea that we’re going to have the era of happy motoring forever is just ridiculous.”

Then as if to provide yet another anti-automobile voice to the cacophony, Sunday’s Washington Post Opinion Section provided a platform for Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, to advocate for his “Routes to Relief”:

If we don’t offer alternatives to so much driving, then high oil prices will keep eroding family finances and threaten our economic and national security. High gas prices and changing demographics — young workers and downsizing empty-nesters and retirees — are increasing demand for more walkable, convenient and transit-accessible locations.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes in choices.  This includes choices in transportation.  Unlike those who prefer to use gridlocked roads as a mechanism to advance their ideological opposition to individual mobility (read cars), we believe making strategic investments in our transportation network based on existing and projected conditions.

us 29 logoAs we have written previously, the US 29 Western Bypass will provide traffic relief not only to through traffic but also to a significant portion of local trips which have one leg of their trip in the urbanized area of (including Charlottesville).  As expressed in Technical Memorandum #3 (based on the 1998 traffic study):

There are approximately 21,400 external to internal trips that enter the urbanized portion of Albemarle County using US 29 North; these trips represent approximately 74% of the total 1998 ADT on US 29. Approximately, 14,100 or 67% of the trips that originate outside the urbanized portion of Albemarle County terminate in the urbanized portion of Albemarle County outside the Places29 study area and use US 29 in the Places29 study area. Approximately half of these 14,100 external to internal trips (7,800 trips) that pass through the US 29 North study area originate in or are destined for the remainder of the City of Charlottesville (city). Emphasis added – NW

The existing conditions are graphically represented below:

US 29 existing conditions

Rather than working to create gridlock as a means to the ideological ends of eliminating single passenger occupancy vehicle trips, the Free Enterprise Forum believes building the Western Bypass will provide transportation choices for all of us.

Gridlock is Bad — Build the Road.

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


4 responses

  1. It’s difficult to figure out this chart at first with out a big explanation. If I read the chart correctly it tells me that by 1998 ADT numbers 74% of travelers during 1998 were using US 29 as a thruway to travel T0 & FROM somewhere outside Albemarle County. Obviously, these travelers would be greatly served by the proposed Western Bypass. If 13 years ago this was the case certainly it’s even more so today. Is there a newer ADT study proposed?

  2. Will – Bypass opponents have consistently blocked any new study that might reveal the actual demand for a bypass. Supv Rooker inserted specific language in the Places 29 Study that prevented any funds from being expended to study/consider a bypass. Pressure was brought to bear on the consultants that did the Rt. 29 Corridor study to drop any mention of a bypass in their study and initial draft (VDOT rejected the study and had them re-write it) – There has been a steady, concerted effort over time to prevent any honest evaluation of the Western Bypass, along with a cynical approval of building projects to block any future extension of the alignment. Only the courage of the 4 current supervisors and a favorable climate in Richmond to break the stranglehold has made this window of opportunity possible. If we don’t build the bypass now – it probably will never get done.

  3. Do bypass proponents think routing an interstate for freight trucks next to 4000 Albemarle schoolchildren is good?

    There are six schools with playgrounds or athletic fields within five hundred feet of this six-mile bypass/interstate. Is there anything worth risking damage to the health of 4000 Albemarle children?

    There is now strong scientific evidence from many reputable scientific sources that routing trucks in close proximity to schools is measurably damaging to the respiratory health of school children. It can cause PERMANENT lung damage to the developing lungs of normal children as well as increased illness in children with chronic respiratory conditions like asthma. Roads close to schools with as few as 10,000 vehicles per day have shown measurable harm to children. Freight trucks are more damaging than cars. The EPA recommends that any school within one half of a mile of a high traffic road be further evaluated. It is simply appalling to put “interstate” truck diesel exhaust this close to the playgrounds and athletic fields of 4000 children.

    This new, reputable scientific evidence, done since 2007, was unknown at the time of choosing the current bypass route. The evidence is strong enough for the EPA and many states to address this health concern. These new 2011 EPA standards should be carefully studied and applied to this project.

    Secondly, there are NO noise barriers anywhere on this “bypass/interstate.” VDOT studies found that this road would cause significant noise pollution along the route past the schools, but refused to pay for any sound walls or barriers. VDOT is not going to include any walls or barriers unless the BOS/MPO includes this in their “deal” with VDOT.

    All parents should be alerted to these issues.

    There are less destructive and more cost-effective ways to avoid “grid-lock”.

    Damaging children’s health is bad. Stop the road.

  4. This from Pres. Obama’s EPA:

    “Many aspects of the epidemiologic and toxicologic evidence
    relating adverse human health effects to exposure to primary
    traffic-generated air pollution remain incomplete. However,
    the Panel concluded that the evidence is sufficient to support a
    causal relationship between exposure to traffic-related air pollution and exacerbation of asthma. It also found suggestive evidence of a causal relationship with onset of childhood asthma,
    nonasthma respiratory symptoms, impaired lung function, total
    and cardiovascular mortality, and cardiovascular morbidity,
    although the data are not sufficient to fully support causality. For
    a number of other health outcomes, there was limited evidence
    of associations, but the data were either inadequate or insufficient to draw firmer conclusions. The Panel’s conclusions have
    to be considered in the context of the progress made to reduce
    emissions from motor vehicles. Since the epidemiology studies
    are based on past estimates of exposure from older vehicles, they
    may not provide an accurate guide to estimating health associations in the future.
    In light of the large number of people residing within 300 to
    500 m of major roads, the Panel concludes that the sufficient
    and suggestive evidence for these health outcomes indicates that
    exposures to traffic-related pollution are likely to be of public
    health concern and deserve public attention. Although policy
    recommendations based on these conclusions are beyond the
    scope of this report, the Panel has tried to organize, summarize,
    and discuss the primary evidence in ways that will facilitate its
    usefulness to policy makers in the years ahead.”

    HEI Panel on the Health Effects of Traffic-Related Air Pollution. 2010. Traffic-Related Air Pollution: A Critical Review of the Literature on Emissions, Exposure, and Health Effects.
    HEI Special Report 17. © by the Health Effects Institute, Boston, Mass. The entire report is available at or from HEI.

    “Strategies to Reduce Mobile Source Pollution

    EPA has taken aggressive action to reduce emissions of mobile source air toxics, including the key pollutants mentioned above, and continues to take additional action. Programs to reduce mobile source air toxics include motor vehicle and nonroad engine emissions standards, fuel controls, and motor vehicle inspection and maintenance programs. While some programs, such as the 2007 mobile source air toxics rule, target toxic air emissions specifically, other emission standards were put in place primarily to reduce outdoor levels of ground-level ozone and particulate matter through volatile organic compound (VOC) and diesel PM controls, which reduce air toxics as well. As a result of programs currently in place, EPA projects that mobile source air toxic emissions, including benzene, will decrease by about 60% between 1999 and 2020. EPA expects reductions of over 90% in emissions of diesel particulate matter from motor vehicles.

    One of the significant contributors to vehicle pollution near schools can be school buses. EPA’s Clean School Bus U. S. A. program is designed to help reduce pollution from buses by replacing the oldest, most polluting buses with new, cleaner models, and upgrading those that remain in the fleet. ”

    “Reduce engine idling around schools and clean up old school buses – School buses are the safest way for children to get to school. However, pollution from older diesel vehicles has health implications for everyone, especially children. The goals of the Clean School Bus USA Campaign are to reduce children’s exposure to diesel exhaust and the amount of air pollution created by diesel school buses.

    Protect indoor air quality at schools – About half of the nation’s schools are implementing indoor air quality management programs, most of which are based on EPA’s voluntary Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Program, which helps schools identify, resolve and prevent indoor air quality problems using low- and no-cost measures. While indoor air quality monitoring is not part of this initiative, improving and protecting indoor air quality at schools is important to children’s health. Indoor levels of air pollutants can be two to five times higher than outdoor levels. Sources of poor indoor air quality in schools range from inadequate ventilation systems to fumes from pesticides and cleaning agents.”

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