January 22, 2013
Without changes, Free Bridge on Pantops may be 50 percent over capacity in 30 years.
A project to work on its future was a topic at the Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Board meeting Wednesday afternoon.
The meeting was the first with new members and provided an orientation on projects the MPO is working on, including the Long Range Transportation Plan and the Free Bridge Area Congestion Relief Project.
The bridge is a key connector for many local and regional drivers traveling on 250. It is currently over capacity, causing congestion.
"You have a crossing at Proffit Road, which is one lane, very low volume; you have Free Bridge, which is very high volume, and seven lanes; and you have I-64. And those are the crossing in our community to get across the Rivanna River. And that's not that many," said Sarah Rhodes, MPO Planning Manager. "So, it's looking at developing another crossing. However, that's very, very hard to do,"
The MPO is using an Eco-Logical Program grant, a grant that brings together federal, state, and local governments to create environmentally-friendly planning. Using this grant, the MPO has gathered a group of people to look at possible solutions to ease congestion including building an alternative road.
"There's a lot of development around the corridor, a lot of environmental considerations, natural resources, parks communities," said Rhodes. "You can't just go, 'these two points connect, we should build a bridge here.' It's so much more than that. And so, this discussion is beginning that discussion and trying to get to roots of some of the conflicts."
Due to public comment at the meeting, the board also passed a motion to get crash statistics on Route 29 to see how a bypass would affect safety. The board will hear the data at its meeting next month.