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September 24, 2010

Davies’ replacement on transportation board seeks new approaches to congestion

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DailyProgress

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, September 24, 2010

The Charlottesville region’s new representative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board urged members of the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization Wednesday to come up with fresh solutions to addressing traffic congestion. 

“We don’t have to do [road construction] the same way it’s been done for years and years,” James Rich said.

Listen using player above or download the podcast:   Download 20100922-MPO

 

20100922-Rich
James Rich

Rich is from the Plains, a small town in Fauquier County. Governor Bob McDonnell appointed him to succeed Butch Davies on the CTB, which serves as the board of directors for the Virginia Department of Transportation. This is his second stint as a CTB member, having been previously appointed by former Governor George Alllen in 1994.

Rich also served as co-chair of the Route 50 Task Force, a group charged by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors with recommending ways to preserve the scenic quality of a stretch of that highway just outside the D.C. suburbs. He said VDOT for many years had plans to build a huge cloverleaf and new highways around the 18th century villages of Middleburg, Aldie and Upperville.

“Local citizens of the area got together and raised $250,000 to get a well-respected traffic calming engineer to look at this,” Rich said. “They came up with this plan to put roundabouts at Gilbert’s Corner and we did some traffic calming in the villages which stopped [fast moving traffic]. It’s universally popular, the footprint is so much less, and saved millions and millions of dollars.”

Rich is now part of a CTB sub-committee charged with finishing a corridor-wide study of U.S. 29. The report was originally supposed to be released last year, but has been postponed because some members of the CTB felt recommendations were not effective in addressing congestion.

Rich said he felt it was important to limit the number of entrances and driveways that have direct access to U.S. 29.

Route50-roundabouts
VDOT brochure depicting location of roundabouts installed to improve traffic congestion on Route 50 in Loudoun County

“You can’t build a bypass around everything, and as soon as you build a bypass here, then further north and further south the cuts come in and you need a bypass there,” Rich said.  “It seems like we could all work together and maybe come up with something different and new in the 29 area down here and elsewhere,” Rich said.

At their meeting Wednesday, the MPO Policy Board also further discussed the Northtown trail, a project to connect the downtown mall with Hollymead Town Center for cycling commuters.

“This concept will hopefully establish a comprehensive network,” said Stephen Williams, executive director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. “We’re really viewing it as a north-south spine for the bike system in the region… and improve connectivity.”

The trail will be built by connecting segments such as the Meadowcreek Parkway trail, Schenck’s branch, and a trail planned to pass through the Belvedere neighborhood. To get to Hollymead, the trail would require a bridge to be built over the Rivanna River.

MPO staff are working on a document to list all of the various segments. The TJPDC will hold an open house for the public to view the plan on October 27, 2010.

Also at the meeting, the executive director of Charlottesville Area Transit reported that ridership is down in the first two months of this fiscal year.

“In the first quarter of last year we had tremendous growth and we set the bar pretty high,” said Bill Watterson. “We are still growing with our UVa ridership. That’s up more than 15% even though we’re down overall.”

TIMELINE FOR PODCAST

  • 01:00 - Introductions of all members of the MPO Policy Board
  • 02:40 - Comments from Jim Rich, Culpeper District represenative on the Commonwealth Transportation Board
  • 35:00 - Discussion of MPO presentation to December CTB meeting
  • 46:30 - Discussion of Sunset-Fontaine Connector modeling project
  • 1:04:45 - Discussion of Northtown Trail
  • 1:30:30 - Transit updates
  • 1:40:30 - Updates on new appointees to CTB, new TJPDC employees
  • 1:42:00 - Mac Lafferty reports on diversion of TEA funds to non-transportation related purchases

 

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