July 28, 2011
After more than 20 years on the shelf, the Route 29 Western Bypass has been put into the fast lane.
Wednesday night the Metropolitan Planning Commission voted 3-2 to approve the project which means the proposal moves forward toward construction.
One of the 'yes' votes was from Albemarle County Supervisor Rodney Thomas. He thinks the Bypass would reduce the traffic along the current Route 29 corridor and make the area more friendly for pedestrians.
Thomas is keeping a close eye on Washington and the budget talks because of the federal dollars going toward the project, "I don't think we're going to lose it. I think it's going to be there, but you always have in the back of your mind that it's a possibility."
Even after four hours of public comment, people still came up to voice their concerns to Supervisor and MPO member Duane Snow after the Western Bypass was approved.
More than 100 people signed up to speak and the majority of the crowd spoke against the Bypass. The MPO was almost as divided as the crowd, but the Albemarle County Supervisors sided with VDOT and their three votes overrode the two City Councilors on the board.
Supervisor Snow said he wasn't as much for the Bypass as he was for the other things that were promised to Albemarle County if the MPO did approve the Bypass. This vote now means VDOT will also fund the completion of Hillsdale Drive, improve what's referred to as the 'Best Buy' ramp and lanes, complete the Berkmar Drive Extension, and complete the Belmont Bridge.
There's still more to be done before the Bypass even breaks ground, which probably won't be until next year. Where the Bypass ends near Ashwood Boulevard at Forest Lakes needs to be designed and another environmental study needs to be completed.
The Western Bypass project will build a new 6.2-mile, four-lane, limited-access roadway stretching from Route 29 just north of the South Fork Rivanna River to the Route 29/250 Bypass. The project includes interchanges at both start/end points to move traffic between Route 29 north and Route 29/250 west of Charlottesville.
Debate over the proposed bypass has been a source of contention for more than 20 years.