Western Bypass

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20020219-SELC-bypass-map.jpg

Project CANCELED

Project Overview

To provide a bypass for Route 29 through traffic around the Charlottesville metropolitan area. The bypass also provides a direct connection from U.S. 29 north to the North Grounds of the University of Virginia.
Cost $245 million
Sponsor VDOT
Next meeting None Planned

Status Update

Project highly unlikely to proceed as planned

Website http://www.virginiadot.org/projects/culpeper/rt._29_bypass.asp
VDOT Dashboard VDOT Dashboard Entry
Contact Lou Hatter, Public Affairs Manager, Culpeper District, VDOT
The Western Bypass is a defunct plan for a limited-access road bypassing commercial areas of U.S. Route 29 to the west of Charlottesville. A Federal Highway Administration official signaled in February 2014 that the agency was unlikely to grant an environmental clearance and suggested VDOT find alternatives. [1] [2] Aubrey Layne, Virginia's Secretary of Transportation, convened a panel in the spring of 2014 to suggest alternatives for money that had been allocated by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

With the project likely dead, former VDOT commissioner Philip Shucet has recommended alternate uses for at least $200 million that had been allocated to the bypass. The alternatives include $54 million to extend Berkmar Drive across the South Fork Rivanna River, an additional $10 million to further extend Hillsdale Drive Extended to Holiday Lane in Charlottesville, and $81 million to build a grade-separated intersection at Rio Road and U.S. 29. The Commonwealth Transportation Board adopted a new six-year improvement program that included the projects at its meeting on June 18, 2014. [3] That meant the Western Bypass project was defunded. [4]


Contents

Selection of a Route

In November 1990, the CTB approved the general alignment for the project known as the Western Bypass. However, the northern terminus was moved northward several years later after a series of lawsuits. The project that was dormant, resurrected, and then made dormant again would run 6.2 miles extending north from Leonard Sandridge Road through Albemarle County's urban ring. The stated purpose of the project is to provide a bypass for Route 29 through traffic around the Charlottesville metropolitan area. The bypass also provides a direct connection from U.S. 29 north to the North Grounds of the University of Virginia.

Status

The project is highly unlikely to be built in its current form. However, the project will remain on both the MPO's Transportation Improvement Program and VDOT's Six Year Improvement Program as long as VDOT continues to right-of-way for the road. [5] Construction money could not be allocated until the VDOT completes work associated with the National Environmental Policy Act, but the FHWA letter means that work will likely not go forward.

Costs and funding

A cost estimate produced on July 21, 2011 puts the total cost estimate for the road at $235 million. [6]

In 2011, Commonwealth Transportation Board member James Rich said he estimated the Western Bypass would cost between $250 million and $300 million. [7] In 2005, the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce estimated the price at $271-280 million. VDOT provided the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors an official estimate of $166 million on March 1, 2006, but in doing so acknowledged the cost model on this project may not be comprehensive.

Funding from the projection was removed by the CTB on June 18, 2014 except for $58 million, representing the state's investment in the project both in terms of property ownership and preliminary engineering. [4]

Organized opposition

Several organizations have emerged in opposition to the proposed bypass, including the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Piedmont Environmental Council. Groups that oppose the plan argue that the bypass will negatively impact the landscape of the area and will accomplish little to alleviate traffic on 29.[8] In July 2012, the SELC, in collaboration with the Piedmont Environmental Council, released a plan presenting alternatives to the 6.2 mile bypass that included Berkmar Drive Extended and the so-called Best Buy Ramp.[9]


Dormancy, Resurrection, Dormancy

The project came back to life in the summer of 2011. A company was hired to design and build the road, but the project's future is unlikely when the FHWA questioned the project's purpose and need.

Overturning MPO opposition

In July 1996, the MPO Policy Board passed a resolution barring VDOT from allocating any money towards construction of the project. In November 2002, the MPO adopted a [[Transportation Improvement Plan that stated “the project as designed does not meet community or regional needs, and has been determined too costly for the transportation benefits to be gained.”[10] The Board of Supervisors voted on June 8, 2011 to direct their representatives on the MPO to vote to remove that language. [11]

Resurrection

Many people in the community thought the project was out of consideration until Albemarle County Supervisor Rodney Thomas indicated in May 2011 he wanted the MPO to drop its opposition to the allocation of construction funding.[10] Around $36 million has been used for the purchase of right-of-way along the route. The project had been on VDOT's six-year improvement program for many years, but there has been no additional funding allocated to the project since 2002, except for maintenance of rental properties VDOT manages.

In June 2011 the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors changed its policy position to support the Western Bypass.[11] The board was previously opposed to the bypass until other road projects were completed (see Three Party Agreement). As of June 2011, the Western Bypass is scheduled for public hearings before the Metropolitan Planning Organization in July 2011. Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton has promised to find funding for the bypass, and the widening of U.S. Route 29 between Polo Grounds Road and Hollymead Town Center, if local opposition to the project is eliminated by the MPO.[7]

That changed when the CTB allocated $197 million in funding to the project at their meeting on July 20, 2011. [12] On June 24, 2011, VDOT Commissioner Gregory A. Whirley sent a letter to MPO Director Steve Williams formally requesting the MPO amend its constrained long-range transportation plan to include the bypass. While the letter states that there is a 'reasonable assurance' of funding, the MPO will not be given details of how the project will be funded until after the July meeting. [13]

Officials in both Lynchburg and Danville have historically demanded the bypass be constructed. [14] Shannon Valentine, Lynchburg's representative on the CTB, said she was disappointed that the bypass would be built and said she still wanted a long-term solution. [4]

RFP

On September 27, 2011, VDOT issued a request for proposals to design and build the highway. [15]

Ten construction firms answered the RFP with Submittals of Qualifications and nine of those qualified and moved on to the second stage, in which they will submit proposals by April 17, 2012[16].

Bidding firms

Contract

In June of 2012 the Commonwealth Transportation Board awarded the $135 million contract to Virginia Beach-based Skanska Branch Highways team. The contract was awarded over objections raised by VDOT's Culpeper District representative, James Rich, who argued in favor of the Places29 Master Plan as a more cost-effective alternative.[17]

Post 2013 election

In the 2013 election, several opponents of the bypass won election to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors. Liz Palmer defeated Duane Snow and Brad Sheffield defeated Rodney Thomas. This means that the county suddenly had two new representatives on the MPO who did not support the bypass. [18]

Future of right of way?

The right of way remains the property of the Commonwealth of Virginia. [4]

Part of the reason for the speedy resurrection was the fate of land purchased for the project. The first parcels were purchased in 1991. State code requires property acquired by VDOT to be offered back to the original owner twenty-years after purchase if the project is not active.[19] The code has several exceptions, including the allowance of an extension if the project has been in litigation.

In 2007, State Senator Steve Newman of Lynchburg requested an opinion from then-Attorney General Bob McDonnell about whether the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization would be required to pay back the money expended so far on the project if the MPO removed the project from its Transportation Improvement Plan. [20][21] McDonnell's office concluded that in this situation, if the Federal Highway Administration requested reimbursement, VDOT would be required to reimburse the federal government. Additionally, VDOT would deduct all state funds spend so far on the project from the highway construction funds allocated to the Culpeper District of VDOT where the Western Bypass would be located.

Following McDonnell's October 2007 determination, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer wrote a letter dated December 21, 2007 to CTB member John Davies regarding the status of Western Bypass right of way and federal funding invested in the project. The major conclusion is: "If decisions are made not to build, any available revenues after covering expenditures on the projects should be available to use toward other projects in the Culpeper District." This letter is cited by bypass opponents as evidence that even after 20 years, the ROW investment will not be lost back to the federal government.

However, Connaughton said he believed in McDonnell's interpretation of federal law and cited the possibility of being forced to sell the right of way as one reason to proceed.


Maps & Plans

VDOT's August 1999 "roll plan" of U.S. 29 Western Bypass preliminary design -> View FULL SIZE PDF

VDOT's July 23, 1997 preliminary engineering plans for U.S. 29 Western Bypass

Locator Map

References

  1. Web. Western Bypass called into question by Federal Highways, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, February 19, 2014, retrieved April 28, 2014.
  2. Web. VDOT working closely with federal agency on bypass review, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, January 13, 2013, retrieved January 14, 2013.
  3. Web. Recommendations unveiled for U.S. 29 congestion relief, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, May 8, 2014, retrieved May 19, 2014.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Web. Western Bypass funding eliminated; CTB supports other U.S. 29 projects, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, June 18, 2014, retrieved June 19, 2014.
  5. Web. [http://www.tjpdc.org/pdf/TIP/TIP_FY12_FINAL.pdf Fiscal Year 2012 Transportation Improvement Program], Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization, retrieved November 18, 2013.
  6. Web. VDOT Dashboard, Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia Department of Transportation, retrieved August 18, 2011.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Web. No state funding for Western Bypass yet, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, 16 June 2011, retrieved 20 June 2011.
  8. Web. Bypass plans raise questions, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, Charlottesville, VA, July 3, 2012, retrieved July 18, 2012.
  9. Web. Bypass opponents launch campaign to promote alternatives, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, Charlottesville, VA, July 12, 2012, retrieved July 18, 2012.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Web. Supervisor Thomas calls for MPO to change western bypass policy, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, May 26, 2011, retrieved June 22, 2011.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Web. Dorrier makes late-night switch to revive Western Bypass, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, June 9, 2011, retrieved June 22, 2011.
  12. Web. Uncertainty remains over public process for bypass action, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, June 21, 2011, retrieved June 6, 2011.
  13. Web. Reasonable Assurance of Funding for Key Albemarle County Transportation Projects, Gregory A. Whirley, Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia Department of Transportation, June 24, 2011, retrieved June 27, 2011.
  14. Web. Charlottesville bypass again being sought, Denice Thibodeau, Danville Register & Bee, December 27, 2010, retrieved December 28, 2010.
  15. Web. VDOT ISSUES REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS FOR RT. 29 BYPASS, Shannon Marshall, Virginia Department of Transportation, Richmond, Virginia, September 27, 2011, retrieved October 26, 2011.
  16. Web. 9 Firms qualified for Charlottesville Bypass RFP, Tamara Rollison, Virginia Department of Transportation, Richmond, VA, December 16, 2011, retrieved December 21, 2011.
  17. Web. Western Bypass contract awarded, Sean Tubbs, Charlottesville Tomorrow, Charlottesville, VA, June 20, 2012, retrieved June 25, 2012.
  18. Web. New Western Bypass battle brewing, J. Reynolds Hutchins, Daily Progress, World Media Enterprises, November 16, 2013, retrieved November 18, 2013.
  19. Web. Virginia Code Section 33. 1-90, Commonwealth of Virginia, retrieved June 22, 2011.
  20. McDonnell, Robert. "AG Op. HIGHWAYS, BRIDGES AND FERRIES: TRANSPORTATION BOARD, 2007 Va. AG 102 (07-069) HIGHWAYS, BRIDGES AND FERRIES: TRANSPORTATION BOARD — ALLOCATION OF HIGHWAY FUNDS — MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS." Web. 23 Aug. 2010. <http://www.cvilletomorrow.org/docs/20071004-AG-opinion-on-bypass.pdf>.
  21. Web. Opinions of the Attorney General and report to the Governor of Virginia 2007, Attorneyy General, Commonwealth of Virginia, retrieved 12 July 2011.

Studies

Studies related to the Western Bypass available on cvillepedia


Correspondence

Correspondence related to the Western Bypass available on cvillepedia


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