By. Neil Williamson, President
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”:
- Full funding for the US 29 Western Bypass
- 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
- Full funding for the widening of US 29 between Polo Grounds Road and Hollymead Town Center
- Full funding for conceptual design of Berkmar Drive Extended
- Full funding for design and construction of a shared use (Bypass/Berkmar Extended) bridge over the Rivanna River
- Full funding of the US 29/250 Bypass additional entrance rams and interchange improvements (commonly refereed to as the “Best Buy ramp” projects
- Full funding of Hillsdale Drive Extended (being designed by the City of Charlottesville)
- Funding for the Belmont Bridge Replacement in the City moved forward from fiscal year 2016 to Fiscal Year 2014
- Funding for extension of public transit service to Hollymead Town Center
- 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.
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