August 20, 2013
The Charlottesville/Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization is abandoning a proposal to put tolls into downtown Charlottesville over the next several decades.
The plan had been one of the possible scenarios for the long-term transportation plan the MPO is developing. However, MPO program manager Sarah Rhodes says the toll idea was dropped because it was not possible.
Instead, they are focusing on other ways to cut congestion as they develop a plan for transportation projects for the next 25 years. But, according to Rhodes, transportation funding is not reliable.
"It's getting so limited that it's very difficult to build a transportation vision with the funding you can reasonably expect," Rhodes says.
The MPO is estimating that Central Virginia will get about $300 million in transportation funding in the next twenty years. Rhodes says, that's not much money, considering that the Western Bypass is costing nearly that much on its own.
However, the Western Bypass is already funded, and not included in future road cost estimates.
"We're working under the assumption that the bypass will be built," Rhodes said. "It's a fully-funded project. It's something we have to do."
She says, having the bypass would take traffic away from Route 29 and open up new options for that roadway, like bicycle lanes or a bus-only lane.
"It would be a lot like a subway," Rhodes said. "Buses come on a certain time and you get on and you are not trapped by congestion."
The commission has created a new web site that explains some of these ideas.
"This is all planning phases," Rhodes said. "There's still plenty of opportunity to discuss these ideas."
And plenty of time to see if the state gives more money for roads.
"That funding estimate could change," Rhodes said. "I'm really hoping it does. Maybe go up a little bit."
The MPO is holding the first of a series of meetings on August 28 at 5 p.m. to take public feedback about transportation priorities.
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