February 27, 2013
Because of some confusion and further investigating, the deadline for public comment into plans for the Belmont Bridge project has been extended until the end of March.
"We just think there's been some confusion about the designs and the project and the status that came out of the meeting we had a couple weeks ago, and we just think it would be bet better to back off, let people have more time, get questions answered," said Jim Tolbert, Charlottesville's director of Neighborhood Development Services.
At a meeting two weeks ago, the city presented two options to the public on the future of the bridge.
The first is an overpass that stays within the $12.4 million budget. The environmental assessment is already done, and traffic would be mostly maintained during construction.
The other option is an underpass that could cost at least double that. However, there's been no environmental assessment done, and traffic would be cut off completely for the duration of the project.
"People just concerned over the two different forms of information that were given out at the meeting, particularly around cost around the underpass, so we've realized we've got to refine those numbers and make sure that we're all on the same page and that we've got good numbers," Tolbert said. "And that's going to take a while to do."
Some locals told city staff they're willing to make the investment, while others say they're confused about exactly what the impact during construction will be.
"We're backing up and we're going to assess -- we've got to assess the impacts on adjacent property by either approach, we've got to make sure we've got a good cost on either approach," Tolbert said. "We really have to talk to the railroad and find out where they are on the underpass and what the issues we have to deal with there are."
Once more information has been compiled, city staff will hold another public meeting to keep everyone abreast of the changes.
"It's just an infrastructure that will last, we hope, more than 50 years, so we want to make sure we get it right," Tolbert said.
Whatever plan comes out on top in the end will still have to wait. The earliest construction can begin on the project is 2017.