Tag Archives: transportation

VDOT Updates Greene County Supervisors

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Joel DeNunzio, the local Virginia Department of Transportation representative from the Culpeper District, updated http://gcva.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=1&event_id=51&meta_id=1565 the Greene County Board of Supervisors at their second meeting of January.

Two transportation projects received funding from the VDOT’s new Smart Scale funding program.  The scoring program is relatively complex but is transparent.  According to VDOT:

Virginia’s SMART SCALE (§33.2-214.1) is about picking the right transportation projects for funding and ensuring the best use of limited tax dollars. It is the method of scoring planned projects included in VTrans that are funded by HB 1887. Transportation projects are scored based on an objective, outcome-based process that is transparent to the public and allows decision-makers to be held accountable to taxpayers. Once projects are scored and prioritized, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) has the best information possible to select the right projects for funding.

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US29/Route 33

The first Greene County Smart Scale project funded addresses the upgrade to the southeast corner of the Routes 29/33 intersection based on congestion mitigation, safety and economic development. DeNunzio explained that this project was submitted in the Fiscal Year 2017 and has been funded. VDOT is meeting with the contractor with a targeted completion date of December, 2020.

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Joel DeNunzio

The second project DeNunzio discussed was the paving of Route 630 / Beazley Road which is to be started by July of this year.

As for construction projects, the main concern is the intersection of Route 29 and Route 607 / Matthew Mill Road. This is one of the most congested intersections in Greene County and the work will begin this summer and should be completed by September, 2017 as it also included in the Smart Scale program in Fiscal Year 2017 and has been funded.

Another concern is the speed on Preddy Creek Road, especially on the curves. Under State law where there is no posted speed limit, by default the speed limit is 55 mph. Discussion centered on whether a speed limit of 35 mph should be posted on the curves and whether drivers would actually slow down. Over the last year the Greene County Sheriff has placed speed enforcement units on Preddy Creek Road.  What was unclear from the Board discussion was why there should be a concern to post a lower speed limit on dangerous curves

A comment from the public brought up the unpaved Ice House Road and DeNunzio agreed that it should be paved. County Administrator John Barkley indicated to Jessica and James Maupin that he would contact them when this issue would be discussed again.

Supervisor Jim Frydl (Midway) then asked DeNunzio if the mobile speed signs that he has seen in other counties could be used in Greene County. DeNunzio agreed that they may help in certain areas and he said that he would work with Sheriff Steve Smith to partner with them to acquire the signs for Greene’s use at a cost of about $5,000 each.

Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville) again expressed his concern about materials left by VDOT and asked that the remaining materials at the northwest corner of the Route 33 Bypass and Swift Run Road be removed. DeNunzio has had the metals removed but committed to have the remaining materials removed.

The final issue discussed with DeNunzio was the possibility of the connector road that was designed in the Preddy Creek project on Route 29. When the project was designed it showed a connector road from Route 29 northbound going through to Matthew Mills Road.

Only a fraction of this project has been completed – the apartment complex. The proposed 1,100 homes and businesses have not been constructed. Chairman Michelle Flynn (Ruckersville) asked Planning Director Bart Svoboda if the connector road would have to be built if the project was completed. Svoboda indicated that the road would need to be built.

A further question from Flynn asked could funds from another project be redirected to provide this road. DeNunzio clarified that funds cannot be redirected to other projects but each project would have to re-apply for funds that specific project.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Greene Supervisors Get VDOT Update

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Joel DeNunzio, Resident Engineer from the Charlottesville office of the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  gave the Greene County Board of Supervisors their quarterly update on Tuesday, October 11, 2016 . The first section of his report covered Preliminary Engineering projects which included Route 607 improvements at the Route 29 intersection and the Route 29/Route 33 intersection improvements.

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US29/Route 33 Intersection

The Route 607 project was advertised in September and the contract is scheduled to be awarded in January with the work to be completed by September, 2017. The Rte. 29/33 is a longer project requiring $1.2 million in funding and will go for 6 years with construction to occur starting in 2020.

Under Construction Activities the current project is the replacement of the Conway River Bridge replacement which is underway. This will however stretch out until November of 2017 until it is completed.

Maintenance Activities included preparing for snow treatment which included an inspection of equipment just completed today. DeNunzio indicated that for several years now snow treatment equipment has not only been inspected in the fall but also in the spring and this has provided the equipment to be in better shape for the next winter snow removal season.

The next part of the VDOT presentation asked for comments from the public and Landon McPeak who is a resident of the Golden Hills neighborhood spoke and asked DeNunzio how to get the roads in his neighborhood into the Virginia system. DeNunzio indicated that for rural additions state funds are limited 5% of construction funds (which for Greene County are $30,000) which would provide only $1,500 for this project. He indicated that there may be other services which could be of help.

Several comments were made by the supervisors including compliments on the paving on Route 33 all the way to the park, the town of Stanardsville and Simms Road.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Photo Credits: Greene County

C’ville’s Hydraulic Houdini

By. Neil Williamson, President

What would you call it when Charlottesville works to make a primary pillar of an integrated transportation program disappear?

The Hydraulic Houdini.

Please let me explain.

Those with even decent short term memory can remember the argument over the now defunct Western Bypass and the Route 29 “Solutions”.  Rather than building a limited access bypass around Charlottesville’s congestion (The Free Enterprise Forum supported), Bypass opponents proposed a series of integrated “solutions” would increase the existing roadway capacity.

My friend Jeff Werner of the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) even had a nifty PowerPoint Presentation regarding the  congestion

Trafficit knot  @ Proff Rd             Trafficlymead Town Center             @ Hol                       knotTrafficLakes ...

As a part of the “six fixes” presentation Werner included #5

6) Widen the section of Rt. 29after Hol lymead Town Center       to fix the bottle neck,   & improve the intersection at  ...

Well, not so fast.

Even with all this Charlottesville seems ready to pull a Hydraulic Houdini to make the project disappear.

Last week, Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sean Tubbs wrote about the Charlottesville Planning Commission’s lack of excitement regarding a possible small area plan for the intersection:

“I believe that, compared to the other small-area plans, this would be least prioritized,” commission Chairman John Santoski said. “I don’t think we want to invest a lot of time and energy in a small-area plan here when we have other places that we know need the attention.”

It is interesting contract considering Tubbs’ May 20, 2014 dispatch just prior to the MPO endorsement of Route 29 Solutions:

The Charlottesville City Council informally has endorsed a $203 million package of transportation projects to address traffic congestion on U.S. 29, including $10 million to begin plans for a grade-separated interchange at Hydraulic Road.

“It is a major connecting piece for the whole network and I think we don’t want to make it seem like it’s not a high priority even though it is further down in the pipeline,” said Councilor Kathy Galvin.

The idea of the Hydraulic Houdini appeared in Charlottesville Tomorrow’s coverage of last week’s Charlottesville PC field trip:

The Virginia Department of Transportation currently has allocated $10 million each for study of a future grade-separated intersection and a southern extension of Hillsdale Drive to Holiday Drive. That money is not available until 2019, and it is possible a future administration could reprogram the funds to other projects or other years.[Emphasis added-nw]

So what has changed? 

Where are the supporters with their “Real Solutions Now” placards as the City performs the Hydraulic Houdini?

Could it be now that property is being sold and the Western Bypass is beyond resuscitation, the goal has been met?

While we have steadfastly opposed the Expressway [even calling for a veto of Places29 (which passed unanimously)] we are shocked to see the “solutions” proponents so quickly abandon one of their pillars.

Perhaps now, in hindsight,  we see the “integrated” transportation plan for what it really was — not an innovative effort to improve US29 congestion but a savvy political alternative to eliminate three stop lights and, more importantly,  derail any bypass for at least a generation.

Respectfully Submitted,

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, Louisa and  Nelson County.

Photo Credits:  Piedmont Environmental Council

Albemarle’s Anemic VDOT Economic Development Score

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

Albemarle County earned a failing report card from Virginia Departmentepic fail of Transportation (VDOT) regarding the economic development impacts on their proposed transportation improvement.

This low score, coupled with other factors, resulted in the ONLY Transportation project Albemarle County The Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization [correction 11:27am 2/22-nw] submitted for possible funding the I-64/US29 Interchange (Exit 118) ranking 282 out of 287 projects statewide and DEAD LAST in Culpeper District.

Like a parent, the Free Enterprise Forum is concerned with this economic development report card and we wonder if Albemarle is willing to do what is necessary to improve their scores.  We believe absent a paradigm shift regarding economic development and proactive zoning Albemarle County  may not receive significant transportation dollars for a generation.

Please let me explain.

The Commonwealth just completed the first ever objective scoring exercise of transportation projects.  This exercise is the result of a 2014 state law commonly referred to as HB2.  This legislation was so significant – it has its own website.  According to the website:

House Bill Two (HB2) is about investing limited tax dollars in the right projects that meet the most critical transportation needs in Virginia. At the heart of the new law is scoring projects based on an objective process that involves public engagement and input. Once projects are scored, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) will have the best information possible to select the right projects for funding.

Governor Terry McAuliffe signed HB2 into law in 2014, which directs the CTB to develop and use a scoring process for project selection by July 2016. Candidate projects will be screened to determine if they qualify to be scored. Projects will be scored based on an objective and fair analysis applied statewide. The law will improve transparency and accountability. The public will know how projects scored and the decisions behind the CTB’s project selections.

In an attempt to capture the different demographic needs of the state, different values are placed on the six different areas of scoring.  Albemarle and Charlottesville are in Category B.

In Category B, accessibility factors (which really are about economic opportunity) are weighted 25%,  economic development factors are weighted 20%, safety factors are also weighted 20%; Environmental quality and land use are each weighted at 10%.

In VDOT’s safety calculations, fatalities rank significantly higher than simple injury and property damage accidents rank even lower.  As this is an interchange not an intersection, the majority of the accidents are sideswipe incidents.

In his article on the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s meeting on this issue Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sean Tubbs quotes Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission Executive Director Chip Boyles:

“We got zeroes for economic development and we got zeroes for crash frequency reduction,” Boyles said, adding that there have been no fatalities at the intersection in the past three years.

Short of generating a rash severe life grabbing accidents, there is little a locality can do to change the safety ranking.  The other areas however localities can make a difference.

Examine the scorecard below for Exit 118, 60% of the accessibility factor revolves around “Increase in Access to Jobs” another 20% of this score is related to “Increase in Access to Jobs for disadvantaged Populations”. Therefore, 80% of the accessibility score relates to economic opportunity.  Reading the report card below, Albemarle failed to achieve a full integer on accessibility scoring .9

The Charlottesville Tomorrow article highlighted opportunities for improving scores:

John Lynch, VDOT’s Culpeper District administrator and a voting member of the MPO, said localities can increase scores by demonstrating they are actively investing in infrastructure.

“As you progress through the development of that site you would get more points towards that particular element because you’re investing money into that plan,” Lynch said.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the HB2 ranking system is here to stay and that the system as currently designed favors those localities seeking to use state dollars to advance economic development and economic opportunity.  The logical nexus is that by spending limited state dollars on projects that increase economic activity, there will be more state dollars to spend in the future.

This is where proactive zoning comes in.  Proactive zoning is when a locality seeks to rezone land, with the consent of the owner, to the uses already approved in the Comprehensive Plan.  Albemarle county last completed a proactive rezoning when it created the Downtown Crozet District.  Opponents of proactive rezoning cite the lack of applicant proffers creating an undue burden on the locality to mitigate the project impacts.

While we have been a proponent for landowner authorized proactive zoning for many years, the new transportation funding paradigm makes the proffers argument moot.

If proactively rezoning land, and investing in infrastructure, allows the community to be not only more attractive to new or expanding business but will improve our chances to receive needed state funding for transportation, the economic benefits clearly outweigh the costs.

poker chipsHB2 Transportation funding is very similar to sitting down at a new poker game.  The cards are the same but the rules are now completely different.  The big question is  if the Albemarle County Supervisors will ante up.

If not, other localities surely will and they will reap the benefits of their foresight and investment.

Time will surely tell.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil 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.

Photo Credits:   Charlottesville Tomorrow, VDOT

Greene BOS Briefed on Albemarle’s Route 29 Solutions Projects

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

Chip Boyles, Executive Director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), updated the Greene County Board of Supervisors at their December 10th meeting on the Route 29 construction progress and scheduling  – in Albemarle County. The total funds allocated by for the Route 29 project is $250 million which is comprised of a number of different projects. Inversely the by-pass project has now been killed and all that is left to do is to offer the property back to the last owner – who VDOT purchased the property from (in many cases).

The Best Buy ramp project is to add another on ramp to the Route 250 bypass heading west. Next, Hillsdale Drive and Berkmar extensions will be extended parallel to Route 29. The next project is the one closest to Greene County. Route 29 will have an additional lane in both directions from Hollymead Town Center to Polo Grounds Road with either a bike lane or sidewalks on each side. In addition, improvements to the signal process so that changes can be made to the timing of the lights to improve traffic flow on Route 29.

The biggest single project is the Rio Road / Route 29 interchange at a price of $85 million. It will be a grade separated interchange and three existing stop lights will be eliminated on Route 29.

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The contract will be awarded in February with construction starting in late 2015.  All construction on Rio/US29 GSI will be completed by no later than Dec. 2, 2016

The timeline for this project provides 103 days will have the east / west traffic on Rio Road closed. The start date for the closure is May 23, 2016 and the targeted completion date for the closure  is September 2, 2016. Progress on this project can be tracked at www.Route29Solutions.org.

In order to get the project done early, an incentive of over $8 million is being offered to the contractor if the project is finished early and inversely there is a penalty if the project goes over the timeline.

Mr. Boyles addressed that the Hydraulic Road / Route 29 has more traffic and therefore logically it would have been the first intersection to be done. However, this project requires that some existing structures come down and additional parcels need to be purchased, therefore making it much more complex than the Rio Road project.

Supervisor Davis Lamb, Ruckersville District, asked about the pushback of a group of businesses against the Rio Road project. Mr. Boyles said that the project is going forward and that complications will be dealt with as they happen. The Board thanked Mr. Boyles for the update.

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The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Greene County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.

Workplace 29 – Facts are Stubborn Things

By Neil Williamson, President

In recent days, the Route 29 Solutions advisory panel has received a number of seemingly coordinated e-mails us-29-logo_thumb.jpgcasting doubt over the accuracy and integrity of The Free Enterprise Forum’s 2007 economic impact report known as Workplace 29

Using such terms as “ridiculous” and “canard” these misguided advocate e-mails seem to desire the Advisory Board ignore the economic realities identified in Workplace 29.  As the late Senator Daniel Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to their his own opinion, but not his own facts”.

In 2007 in an effort to further inform the Places 29 planning process, The North Charlottesville Business Council (NCBC) of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce requested The Free Enterprise Forum determine the approximate tax revenue generated by business activities as well as the Capital Improvement expenditures in the study area. Workplace 29 seeks to quantify the economic importance of North U.S. 29 businesses to the region.

Workplace 29, authored by then University of Virginia graduate student and Free Enterprise Forum Research Associate Natasha Sienitsky, is meticulous in its definition of geographic scope (see figure 1) and methodology (pages 7 -10).  The four appendices included in the report provide the sources and the data used to develop the conclusions.

Workplace 29 finds:

Workplace 29 serves as the Charlottesville region’s most important commercial district, providing citizens with opportunities to live, shop, work and play. Over 20,000 area residents work in this vital economic artery. For visitors, US 29 functions as the primary entrance corridor to the Charlottesville region. In addition to providing essential services and serving as the main gateway to our community, the Workplace 29 study area represents a substantial portion of the tax base for Charlottesville City and Albemarle County.

The Workplace 29 study area:
• supports more than 20,000 jobs, conservatively providing more than $800 million ($874,216,408) alone in direct salaries each year.
• generates 35% of taxes by all non-residential uses in Albemarle County and the City of Charlottesville; approximately $ 33,019,354 in total tax revenue paid to Albemarle County and Charlottesville City in 2006.
• provides per acre tax revenue of $24,700 for non-residential uses, compared to the entire county average of $335 per acre.
• produces approximately 45% of the county’s total tax revenue in 2006.

It is important to note Workplace 29 does not advocate any specific position regarding transportation solutions it merely provides an economic snapshot of the corridor. To be fair, this snapshot is now dated as it used 2006 tax data and significant changes have occurred since Workplace 29 was completed.

Even now, seven years later, the conclusion of Workplace 29 rings true:

Non-residential uses in Workplace 29 generate significant jobs and taxes for Albemarle County. The master planning process must continue to engage owners of these properties as the economic vitality and level of government service in Albemarle County and Charlottesville City have a close relationship to revenues generated by non-residential properties in the Workplace 29 area. The current Places 29 plan calls for a reconfiguration of the road network which will cause significant business disruptions along US Route 29 during an extended construction period. Neither the extent nor time frame of disruptions has been addressed.

Although changes in the character of US Route 29 may have long term economic benefits, short term disruptions, through extended construction periods, most likely would negatively impact business and as a result the revenue stream for Charlottesville City and Albemarle County. Therefore, careful consideration should be given to the impact of master plan formulation and implementation on business.

The Free Enterprise Forum is proud of our 2007 Workplace 29 .  We stand by the scope, methodologies and results.  We encourage anyone with serious questions to engage us in conversation so as a community we can evaluate the economic impacts of transportation infrastructure decisions.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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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

Is This The End of The Road?

By. Neil Williamson, President

In July 2011, after the Charlottesville Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) voted 3-2 to move forward with the Western Bypass, I wrote a post that quoted Sir Winston Churchill that this was not the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning.  The results of today’s (3/19) Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) meeting provide a fitting bookend as it now looks like the beginning of the end of the Western Bypass.

The audience in the Richmond auditorium featured many familiar faces from Albemarle and Charlottesville including four members of the Board of Supervisors as well as Albemarle County Executive Tom Foley.  [Considering it was a transportation meeting, I wonder if we should have done a better job car pooling-NW]

Last month, Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne selected former VDOT Commissioner Phillip Schucet to facilitate a short term Advisory Panel to evaluate what to do about the congestion issues on US29.  The very specific charge for the advisory panel requires the process to be transparent and to work with in the economic constraints of the $200 Million dollars the CTB already allocated to the Western Bypass.  In addition, any solution, or package of solutions, must be able to be constructed (or significant progress accomplished) in the three and a half years left in the current administration.  Layne was also clear in the charge that doing nothing was not an option.  The results of the group’s work are scheduled to be presented at the May 14th meeting of the CTB.

One CTB member, Mark Peake of Lynchburg asked the question directly, “Would this group consider any bypass solutions?”.  Schucet answered the question directly “No”.

Another CTB member, William Fralin of Salem asked the Secretary if the bypass was abandoned and the land sold back would those funds be available to the US29 Corridor in addition to the $200 Million?  Layne was appropriately deferential indicating that decision could not be made until the recommendation came forward and any funds to be reprogrammed would be a decision for the CTB.

Aubrey Layne photo credit VDOT

Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne

The advisory panel composition was a concern for CTB member Alison DeTuncq of Charlottesville who questioned why Greene County, Culpeper County and other localities were not included in the panel.  [The Free Enterprise Forum did find the inclusion of the Southern Environmental Law Center interesting] Schucet indicated that there were a number of conversations regarding the number of people to be on the panel.  At one point it was five at another twenty.  He believed the size was now appropriate.  Layne indicated these were the localities that had been most engaged in the conversations thus far.

So the question remains.  ‘Is this the end of the road?’

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) February 18th letter indicated the twenty years of delay brought the original scope and purpose of the road into question.  The charge to the advisory panel has eliminated the consideration of any bypass at this time. 

My friend, and longtime bypass opponent, Jeff Werner of the Piedmont Environmental Council was quoted on Twitter this week saying  that he would believe the Western Bypass is dead when the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) sells back the right of way.  I tend to agree this will be an instructive and rather objective metric. 

Considering the Advisory Panel’s prescriptive charge and the tenor of the CTB’s discussion this afternoon in Richmond, if this is not the end of the road, it is in sight.

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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20070731williamson 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

Photo Credit: VDOT

Albemarle BOS Public Hearing – Is it a Donne Deal?

Comments to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors Public Input Session February 19, 2014

Madame Chair, Members of the Board, Mr. Foley and Mr. Davis,

My name is Neil Williamson and I serve as the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization located in Albemarle County.

We believe the proposed US29 Western Bypass is the most practicable and least environmentally impactful transportation solution to US29 congestion concerns.

Over the last few weeks we have shared several reports with this community and the Board:

·       Recent travel time information from the Virginia Department of Transportation showing 22 minutes of Bypass travel time savings

·       Engineering concerns with the construction viability of the expressway often touted as a bypass alternative. 

·       Three independently conducted surveys showing the public support for the bypass. 

·       Cost comparisons to the unfunded Places29 improvements

Even with all of this data, we understand this is a political not necessarily a rational decision. 

John DonneI humbly request that you consider English Poet John Donne as you evaluate your decision on this National Highway of Significance this Federal Aid Route.  As Donne wrote:

 

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.”

 

Albemarle County is not an island and the first letter in VDOT stands for Virginia – when will we recognize our role in the Commonwealth Transportation Plan? 

 

Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

UVA Survey Finds Majority Support Western Bypass

us-29-logo_thumb.jpg Editor’s note – The timing of any media release is important.  The following media release was transmitted on a Friday afternoon prior to the three day Martin Luther King Holiday weekend. – NW

Posted: Jan 17, 2014 12:47 PM EST Updated: Jan 17, 2014 1:12 PM EST

University of Virginia Press Release

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., Jan. 17, 2014  A strong majority of Charlottesville-area residents thinks a U.S. Route 29 bypass around Charlottesville is needed, and a majority favors construction of the proposed Western Bypass, according to the Jefferson Area Community Survey just completed by the University of Virginia Center for Survey Research.

Sixty-two percent of area residents say a U.S. 29 bypass is needed; 25 percent say a bypass is not needed, and 12 percent expressed no opinion. When considering only those who did voice an opinion, 71 percent say a U.S. 29 bypass is needed, while 29 percent say a bypass is not needed.

Asked more specifically about the proposed Western Bypass, 53 percent favor construction of the much-discussed road, 30 percent oppose it and 17 percent voice no opinion. Of those who have an opinion, about one-third (32.2 percent) strongly favor construction, another third (32.1 percent) somewhat favor it and the remainder are somewhat opposed (16.6 percent) or strongly opposed (19.2 percent).

The survey was conducted by telephone from late November to mid-January and included more than 900 respondents representing the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle, Fluvanna, Greene, Louisa and Nelson counties. All of the interviews took place after the Nov. 5 elections, in which three new representatives were elected to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, all of whom have taken positions against the Western Bypass.

Although a majority of residents is still in favor of a U.S. 29 bypass, there has been a modest but significant decrease in support since we last asked about this issue two years ago, said Tom Guterbock, director of the Center for Survey Research. In our January 2012 survey, 69 percent said a bypass is needed, compared to 62 percent right now.

By far the strongest predictor of opinion on these road issues is political views, he added.

The survey shows that, among those with an opinion, a slight majority of those who identify themselves as liberals oppose the Western Bypass (47.5 percent in favor, 52.5 percent opposed) in sharp contrast to conservatives (81 percent in favor) and moderates (63 percent in favor). Party identification mirrors this ideological divide, with favorable opinions toward the Western Bypass expressed by 86 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of independents and a bare majority (52 percent) of Democrats.

There are geographic differences in views of the Western Bypass. Among those who had an opinion, about 58 percent of Charlottesville and Albemarle residents favor the road’s construction, while 84 percent of Louisa County residents favor it. Education has an affect as well: Respondents who hold advanced degrees are less favorable than others (55 percent for the Western Bypass, 45 percent against).

The survey also asked respondents if they consider traffic congestion on U.S. Route 29 going through the Charlottesville area to be “a major problem, a minor problem, not too much of a problem, or not a problem at all. Forty-nine percent of all respondents said this is a major problem. That represents little change from opinion in January 2012, when 52 percent said traffic on the road was a major” problem.

Not surprisingly, people who think traffic is a major problem on Route 29 are more likely to say a bypass is needed (87 percent of those with an opinion) and more likely to favor construction of the Western Bypass (81 percent).

“Of course, we don’t use referendums to decide where to build our roads,  Guterbock said. But if the Western Bypass were put to a vote today across our region, it would very likely have enough popular support to win approval. Nevertheless, the two political parties would probably take opposite sides of the issue, as we are seeing in the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.”

The Jefferson Area Community Survey is a regional omnibus survey carried out twice a year, reaching adults across the region via landline and cellular phones. The survey is supported financially by government agencies, nonprofits and University researchers who place questions on the survey.

Questions about the bypass issue are unsponsored questions that were included in the survey by the Center for Survey Research for their public interest value. With 904 interviews completed between Nov. 21 and Jan. 10, the survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.