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.
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.
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