May 27, 2014
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday night to throw their support behind $203 million in improvements to ease congestion along Route 29.
The proposed plan is the "Concept Solutions Package" put together using input from the Route 29 Advisory Panel.
Panel facilitator and former VDOT commissioner Philip Shucet presented the findings to the Commonwealth Transportation Board earlier this month.
The plan includes fully funding four projects currently included in VDOT's six-year improvement plan. Those projects are the widening of Route 29 North, Hillsdale Drive Extension, the Best Buy ramp and an adaptive traffic signal system.
$18.8 million dollars have been allocated for those four projects. To fully fund them, which is being recommended, would require an additional $43 million.
The recommended plan also includes $145 million in new construction.
Before the board of supervisors voted in support of the plan, they wanted to hear from the public one last time.
Dozens of people spoke up at a public hearing Tuesday night.
"We finally have solutions that work," said supporter and Places 29 panel member Ellie Tucker. "The recommendations are a package and each part needs to be included."
While many people came out to give the plan their stamp of approval, others expressed concerns about what all the construction would do to the business community along the corridor.
"The 'Shucet Expressway' will cause some businesses to fail," said Neil Williamson of the Free Enterprise Forum.
Greg Cichy works closely with the Rio Hill Shopping Center. He says, while they support parts of the plan, the expressway option could do more harm than good for tenants there.
"If we don't have access to that center going in a northbound direction, the center will die," he said. "We want to make sure we're included in the process."
Supervisor Ken Boyd was the only opposing vote Tuesday night.
Despite the majority of the board's decision to support the proposed changes, it's ultimately up to two other organizations to decide if the plan will move forward -- the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) and the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).
Supervisors Ann Mallek and Brad Sheffield are also part of the MPO.
The MPO is scheduled to review the plan at its May 28 meeting. The CTB is expected to vote on the plan June 18.