Can VDOT’s Rio/US29 GSI Steamroller Be Stopped?

By. Neil Williamson, President

There are some in the community that have indicated the Rio/US29 Grade Separated Interchange (GSI) is a “done deal”.  There are also many in the community that are now just learning of the project and have raised significant concerns with this specific element  of the Route 29 Solutions Package.

In Wednesday’s (2/4) Albemarle County Board of Supervisors marathon meeting, Chair Jane Dittmar suggested that  the Board can’t say no to the Rio GSI and yet get the other projects funded. Supervisor Diantha McKeel echoed that sentiment stating that  she’d be very concerned if county “jeopardizes” $230 million in Solutions29 package by rejecting GSI.

Dittmar and McKeel  are correct that Richmond has bullied this package forward and are presenting it as an entire package or nothing but the reality is a bit more nuanced.

rio gsiIn yesterday’s (2/5) Route 29 Solutions Project Delivery Advisory Panel Meeting (PDAP), facilitator Philip Shucet, somewhat reluctantly, indicated that each project in the Route 29 Solutions package is a separate line item in VDOT’s Six Year Improvement Plan.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) could eliminate the project line item in their six year plan.  Shucet also indicated his belief that this action was highly unlikely.

Shucet went further to state that the projects were recommended and funded as a package because they work together to fix traffic on US29.

Several panel members raised concerns with the sequencing of the projects not following the language in Albemarle’s Master Plan for the area known as Places29.  Shucet indicated that the Route 29 Solutions were not born out of Places29 or beholden to the sequencing in that document.  These solutions were developed with input from the first advisory panel (created after the Governor chose not to alter the Western Bypass path/design after the Federal Highway Administration questioned the scope of that project).

The Free Enterprise Forum is concerned that the local direction on this transportation matter has been ceded to Richmond.  Governor McAuliffe and his Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne are utilizing schoolyard bullying tactics offering to fund valuable transportation projects the entire community supports only with a grade separated interchange that clearly divides the community.  Absent the Rio GSI, the administration has said “I’m going to take my ball and go home”.

The reality is that while the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has selected the successful bidder for all of the Route 29 solutions projects (including the Rio/US29 GSI), the bid will not be awarded until the CTB takes official action on February 18th.

Will the CTB ask the difficult questions regarding traffic counts, alternative proposals and lack of community support for the Rio GSI or continue to rubber stamp the Solutions 29 Steamroller?

Not surprisingly, the outcome of this important local transportation issue will be determined by the CTB in Richmond on  February 18th.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

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20070731williamson 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: VDOT

*Feb 6 1:13 pm Correction made “Shucet indicated that the Route 29 Solutions were not born out of Places29” the word “not” added to properly convey meaning – H/T to Philip Shucet for correction.

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One response

  1. Seriously Mr. Williamson? We understand what your role as a paid lobbyist is, and who is paying the bills… that we cannot expect an honest argument much less an objective one. Let’s acknowledge at least that SMART 29 is not. That the “traffic count” issue is largely fabricated as DRW ignores the total traffic count at the intersection, skips over any analysis of causes, and thrusts itself into straight-lining the future… work product that is shockingly shoddy and superficial, unless one considers what DRW provided is what it was hired to… something you would be intimately familiar with. This is typical of your lazy blog pieces, to lay the blame of division on someone other than those who work 24/7 to create it. Thirty years, Mr. Williamson. Short-term memory as to how the preceding administration (mis-)handled the WBP project, and way too funny to now blame the next one for not extending that painful excursion into fiction — our very own cut-through to nowhere. Fifty years to bring the Meadowcreek Parkway to fruition. See a pattern here, Neil? Frankly, this being a US highway, and essential part of the Commonwealth’s primary transportation network, “local direction” hasn’t been ceded to Richmond, it has been forced to follow some good discipline and order. Sore losers remain. To the point that they even demonstrate their offensively “creative” use of abhorrent historical references (Nazi Swastikas), taking your own comments one step closer to sheer hateful meanness. Perhaps the real issue is not one of “local direction” at all, but who believes it is theirs alone to own. And to what ends that justify any means? Pathetic.

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