By Neil Williamson, President
Calling the US29 Solutions Steamroller process an “open and thorough engagement”, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is prepared to endorse a letter of support as a part of their Tuesday (1/13) meeting. This letter reminded us of Kevin Bacon’s very first movie role but more about that later…
Also, the Board of Supervisors continues to recognize the importance of building the Rio Road/US29 Grade Separated Interchange first, and we support an expedited process to minimize disruption to neighborhoods and businesses.
While we have found former VDOT Commissioner Phillip Shucet to be a most effective facilitator and an honest supporter of the McAuliffe administration positions, we believe the public has not been, nor will be, fully “engaged” in the process. As an example, In last week’s BOS meeting Supervisor Ann Mallek suggested there would be a public hearing on the design of the interchange – Nope. Even though this is a design build process, the VDOT proposed design (not what will actually be built) was already taken to public hearing, satisfying the legal requirements.
To review, after receiving the February 2014 letter from the Federal Highway Administration that the Western Bypass did not meet the stated scope of the project, VDOT has:
- Convened a nonvoting panel of stakeholders to discuss alternatives to the bypass (but not to discuss the bypass option)
- Cobbled together several transportation projects from the Long Range Plan and hustled to get them approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board before Project Prioritization (HB 2) became law
- Convened a second panel of non voting stakeholders to get steamroller updates every two weeks and provide advice on how the projects get built (not if or when).
The Evolution of the Expressway
In August, Layne said to the Board of Supervisors regarding the so called Route 29 solutions:
I do not believe this is the end of what we need to do…[this] is the best way to start addressing this situation….. [we] are not at the end but a good start, I believe in an incremental approach.
The Free Enterprise Forum has been long critical of the plans for the Rio Road (and other) interchanges on US29. In recent months we have noticed a change in the opposition talking points.
Last week in “Matters from the Public” Former Supervisor Dennis Rooker suggested those opposed to the interchanges were participating in scare tactics and a misinformation campaign. He also said:
Route 29 is not a Main Street
In his Daily Progress opinion piece on Sunday (1/11), Layne used the same song sheet as he wrote somewhat single mindedly of Albemarle County’s economic engine that is North US 29:
Between Short Pump to the east, Staunton to the west, Danville to the south and Gainesville to the north, no section of highway carries more traffic than U.S. 29 between U.S. 250 and Rio Road – not even Interstate 64. U.S. 29 is not a city street. It is a major Virginia arterial highway Emphasis added-nw
Considering all of the above, the investment in Rio GSI, the dedication of $10 million dollars to study the Hydraulic Road interchange, and the “advisory role” of VDOT’s stakeholder panels – we believe that eventually the expressway is coming regardless of public opposition.
The BOS love letter to VDOT highlighting the “transparent” steamroller “engagement” process VDOT has used on the community reminds us of a line from Kevin Bacon’s first acting role in the 1978 film Animal House – “Thank you sir, may I have another”
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a 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 Credit: NerdRepository.com, Route29solutions.com