By. Neil Williamson, President
Over the last few weeks, there have been a number of accusations of truths, half truths, and outright distortions of truth regarding the US29 Solutions Package and the overall plan for US29.
The Free Enterprise Forum shares the frustration of others in the community including the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) regarding misinformation.
Facts, modeling and statistics, even when used in rhetorical analysis, should be both sourced and transparent so the reader can determine the validity of the argument. As an organization we will continue to strive for such transparency in our work.
On Twitter earlier this month Former VDOT Commissioner and current Route 29 Solutions facilitator Philip Shucet wrote about the concern of a US29 Expressway:
Fact: There is no Rt. 29 Expressway in the making. No secret plans. No hidden agenda. Just some smart
#rt29solutions at work.
0 replies 2 retweets 2 favorites
On Twitter, I queried Shucet about the $10,000,000 dedicated to preliminary engineering on the Hydraulic interchange; clearly this was an indication of the Commonwealth’s interest in building it. His reply:
@NeilSWilliamson Good point. No preset intention either way. If study results are to go forward, then must go to MPO, HB2 priority process.
Shucet is a stand up guy who works hard to to keep his direct charge, the so called Route 29 Solutions, on track.
The Route 29 Solutions webpage [a great resource for up to date project details] lists each of the specific projects under this umbrella:
Route 29 Solutions Projects:
By compartmentalizing his work to the list above, Shucet can accurately say that “There is no Rt. 29 Expressway in the making. No secret plans”. However if one digs further into the approved planning documents a different picture, or pictures, emerge.
In August, when Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne spoke to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors regarding the US29 Solutions, he said, “Again, I want to emphasize these (projects) are not the end of the solutions; but they are a good start. I believe in an incremental approach”. Click here for the podcast [quote is at 18:24].
Back during the Western bypass discussion, Piedmont Environmental Council Field Officer Jeff Werner produced a slide show of sketches to show the problem on US 29.
The solutions proposed in his sketch slide show included most of the Route 29 solutions package as well as a grade separated interchange at Hydraulic:
Not to be left out of the discussion, our friends at the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) joined with PEC in producing a video rendering of the proposed solutions including how an interchange at Hydraulic would work:
These ideas did not come out of thin air — All of this is actually part of the Places29 master plan for the region.
The Places29 Plan calls for 8 “Major Intersection Improvements” within the US 29 Corridor. These improvements will be designed by those in power when funds are available but based on all of the above, we see a tendency to move toward grade separated interchanges.
The Free Enterprise Forum was critical of this plan throughout the development and spoke out in vocal opposition to the plan when it was presented for final approval. The plan was approved unanimously.
I am not sure what most people mean when they use the term expressway. I tend to think of a limited access road with few if any lights or other potential vehicular conflicts.
In looking at the picture below from the Places29 plan [figure 14.18], and the one above from SELC, I wonder what most readers would call these roads?
Former Secretary Shucet is right there is no secret expressway planned for US29 and his Route29 Solutions work, while a part of the overall plan, is not gong to build the “expressway” immediately.
Whether you call the new transportation network an expressway, a boulevard or “Fred”, what is planned is not a secret at all — it is all a part of the Places29 Master Plan and it always has been.
Neil Williamson, President
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 and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org
Piedmont Environmental Council www.pecva.org accessed 11/10/2014
Southern Environmental Law Center www.selc.org accessed 11/10/2014