UPDATED: March 19, 2014
The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) heard plans on how to move forward with easing traffic along Rt. 29. One thing that is completely off the table is a Western Bypass.
“Mr. Secretary, Mr. Fralin, No, a bypass is not something we will consider.”
Those words from former VDOT commissioner Philip Shucet surprised many as talks of a Western Bypass have been in play for 40 years. Now, the future of Rt. 29 is going in a different direction.
“The charge we've been given is to work within the existing 29 corridor in Charlottesville,” says Shucet.
Shucet was chosen by the secretary of transportation to help create a reasonable, cost-effective solution for route 29. They were given $200 million for the project.
On Wednesday morning a plan of action was announced on how they will move forward, which includes a 10 person advisory panel made up of officials from Albemarle County, Charlottesville, Culpeper, Danville, Lynchburg and Warrenton.
“I think the process they've established is appropriate, I think it will be fair, and I'm looking forward to the next few meetings and at least a decision on how to move our community forward,” says Diantha McKeel, Albemarle County Board Supervisor. “We have to handle this traffic.”
The advisory panel will meet three times between the end of March and May 2nd to come up with a plan for the Rt. 29 corridor. They will then give a final report on May 14.
Members of CTB as well as the president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce believe that is a very short time-frame to come up with a solution to traffic problems along 29.
“I can't recall anything getting done in six weeks and nothing is going to get done in six weeks except a series of options,” says Timothy Hulbert, president of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce.
One of those options could include widening Rt. 29, but what isn't in the plans is a bypass.
That advisory panel will have their first meeting on March 27th in Charlottesville and at that time they will discuss some of those suggestions on how they will move forward with the Rt. 29 corridor.
The Southern Environmental Law Center released the following statement Wednesday in response to an announcement that Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne made to the Commonwealth Transportation Board concerning improvements to the Route 29 corridor in the Charlottesville region:
"Secretary Layne's convening of an advisory panel to focus on solutions that are cost-effective and that can be implemented in the next four years charts a promising path forward following the recent decisions from the Federal Highway Administration and the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to halt the destructive and wasteful Charlottesville 'western' bypass proposal," said Trip Pollard, SELC Senior Attorney and Director of the Land and Community Program.
"We were glad to hear that the McAuliffe administration clearly intends to keep the money that had been allocated to the bypass proposal in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area and put it toward fixing the traffic issues on Route 29," said Morgan Butler, SELC Senior Attorney and Director of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Project. "And we appreciate Secretary Layne making clear that it makes no sense for the advisory panel to consider the doomed Charlottesville bypass proposal any further following the Federal Highway Administration's recent pronouncement on that project and its other fatal flaws."
"Pollard will represent SELC as one of ten members of the advisory panel and said he looks forward to the group getting to work. " Based on Chairman Shucet's service as a VDOT Commissioner, I'm confident he'll be able to keep us all focused on solutions that will improve traffic flow on Route 29 - but without the long list of negative impacts that accompanied the bypass," said Pollard. "This is our best chance in a long time to get something positive done, and now is the time for the different regions along the 29 corridor to come together and make sure that happens.""