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October 25, 2011

Task force seeks impact on Western Bypass design

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A committee convened by Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker has further refined a list of recommendations its members want included in an addendum to the request for proposals for design and construction of the U.S. 29 Western Bypass.

VDOT engineer John Giometti and task force member Scott Vande Pol discuss a conceptual drawing for the southern terminus

"I intend to present the committee's final list to the Board of Supervisors for a resolution," Rooker said.

The Virginia Department of Transportation released an RFP for the project in late September and will issue an addendum on Nov. 8. A second addendum will be issued in February. The Commonwealth Transportation Board will award a contract to the lowest qualified bidder.

Rooker said it was important for the addendum to be very specific.

"One of the challenges we have here is that this is a low bid design contract and if [a request] is not required, there's no reason they would put something in there that would cost them money," Rooker said.

At a meeting Monday, the committee spent three hours discussing a total of 29 requests ranging from one that the road be designed with a speed limit of 50 miles per hour to one that construction noise not exceed 70 decibels.


The group is also asking that construction be limited to 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.

The recommendations also ask for at least $1.2 million in landscaping for plantings that will grow quickly in order to shield surrounding neighborhoods and schools from noise and the sight of the road.

The task force further decided to ask that bidders must include $6 million to make the 12 bridges along the bypass aesthetically pleasing.

"What we're trying to avoid is bridges that have the industrial look of interstate bridges," Rooker said.

Not all of the requests were agreed to by the committee.

"Part of our goal should be to have the recommendations be realistic so they're not just pushed aside," said Mark Stanis, a member of the task force who works for facilities management at the University of Virginia.

The group also did not reach agreement on whether to require that U.S. 250 to be moved to the south of its existing location at the southern terminus. Doing so would move the road further away from St. Anne's Belfield and the Canterbury Hills neighborhood, but closer to UVa's Darden Graduate School of Business Administration.

"That did raise some major concerns with the university," said Stanis."[This] is an area that is very pedestrian friendly now. It is going to funnel a tremendous amount of traffic into North Grounds."

Stanis also said UVa officials are concerned that Leonard Sandridge Road is shown in some conceptual drawings to be a four-lane road.

"Everyone's going to be coming down through there and driving on roads that were not de-signed to carry that amount of traffic," Stanis said.

But VDOT engineer John Giometti said the agency has always anticipated Leonard Sandridge Road eventually becoming a four lanes.

Representatives of St. Anne's Belfield, the Canterbury Hills neighborhood and UVa will further discuss the issue and reach consensus before VDOT issues the second addendum.

The committee also discussed whether to include a recommendation that the road not exceed a grade of 4.5 percent. The concern is that a higher grade will amplify sound further.

The initial language extended that requirement to ramps, but the group reconsidered.

"My worry is that if we limit the ramps to 4.5 percent it will make them longer and have more of an impact," said Will Reilly, a former county planning commissioner.

The committee will also request that the contractor have multiple public input meetings.

"Part of our concern is if it gets out of the control of VDOT and in the hands of a contractor who isn't necessarily interested in satisfying the public," Rooker said.

Giometti said there would be no specific appeals process if the public is not satisfied with the contractor's design, but reminded the task force that VDOT would have to approve the final design.

"They're not going to be given free reign to do whatever they want," Giometti said. "We don't have an exact process for this type of situation but because this is a high profile picture we will get the top leadership to weigh in."

The board adopted a resolution earlier this month that asked for VDOT to include recommendations made by a task force convened by Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd.

Rooker will ask for a second resolution at the board's meeting on Nov. 2. He suggested many of the committee members attend in order to persuade the board to support its recommendations.

"I think it may be difficult to get the resolution passed because the board has not been in these meetings and they may be unwilling to move forward because they have not heard the full dialogue," Rooker said.


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