Western Bypass Critic Blames Politics for Removal from Transportation Board

January 17, 2013

James Rich calls the Western Bypass 'the road to nowhere'. Now he says his opposition to it cost him his seat on the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

"I tried to do what I thought was right for the taxpayers because I think we have that share of responsibility," Rich said. "I'm worried about how future transportation decisions are going to be made."

Rich was appointed to the CTB in 2010 by Governor Bob McDonnell. He says Secretary of Transportation Sean Connoughton called him recently to tell him he had been removed from the board.

Rich said the decision was all about politics and Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis Rooker agrees.

"You end up seeing decisions being made by people very removed from the people who are affected by the decisions," Rooker said. "I'm not just speaking about the Western Bypass project. The CTB was created in the first place to de-politicize transportation issues. What we see now is that whole reason being under minded."

Rich maintains his vocal opposition to the bypass project is the reason for his removal from the CTB. But others say Rich isn't in tune with what residents in Albemarle County want when it comes to the future of transportation issues.

"There is a lot in the bypass package that will improve transportation in the area," said Albemarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd. "Polls have been taken and seventy percent of people want the bypass built."

Rich says there is not doubt about, the politics over the Western Bypass led to his dismissal. Rich says that doesn't bode well for the future of transportation projects in the Commonwealth.

"I've never seen such politics in decision making as there is now and so little engineering," Rich said. "I want to see something that engineers tell me will work and benefit the citizens not just politics."

Before plans can move forward with the construction of the Western Bypass, the Virginia Department of Transportation must receive the results of an environmental assessment. Those results should be presented to VDOT by the end of January.

Calls to Governor McDonnell's office in reference to Rich's removal from the CTB were not returned.

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