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November 03, 2011

Albemarle Supervisor candidates on the Western Bypass

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In the run up to Election Day on November 8th, Charlottesville Tomorrow will once again mail out our in-depth nonpartisan voter guide, featuring exclusive one-on-one interviews with all the candidates for Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council.  In the weeks before the election, we will feature one to two questions a day so that citizens like you can compare candidates’ answers and make an informed choice November 8th.

Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2011 Election Center website features links to the full written transcript and audio of candidate interviews, as well as links to videos of candidate forums, copies of our 2011 voter guide, information on where to vote, and more.  All the following passages are excerpts from our interviews.

COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, FOURTH IN A SERIES

image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.comDo you believe the Western Bypass project is consistent with the character of our community and the public’s vision for transportation in Albemarle County?


 

Rivanna District

Ken Boyd (R) - Incumbent

Well, despite the shortcomings of the proposed Western Bypass, it would be irresponsible for us as a board to turn down the amount of infrastructure investment in our community.  We were not really given an option from the state to spend this money on any other road, so I think trying to compare it to whether it fits in the nature of our roads may not be something we can do. 

We were able to include in the deal funding for one of our highest priority projects, which is widening of [U.S. Route] 29 from Polo Grounds to Hollymead Town Center, and I think that is certainly a coup for us, that we were able to get the money to do that as well.

Keeping with the character of the community?  Yeah, I think this road can be built in such a way that it will keep in character with the community.  You’ve got to remember it was the byproduct of years of study, while it might have been some time ago, and I think that this will be just the first leg of what I hope will be a much longer bypass in the future.

 

Cynthia Neff (D) - Challenger

No. I just don’t.  I have been so disappointed over the bypass.  And let me tell you why.  So when I moved here, I heard about these bypasses.  I thought, “What a great idea.”…  Of course the other thing is that I actually don’t believe our traffic is as horrible here as sometimes we bemoan….I mean there are worse traffic nightmares than here, but we’re special, so I think we’ve really got to work to keep it that way. 

But it took me a long time of working with the Places 29 plan to realize the time for a bypass – that part of the Route 29 highway is over.  It’s gone.  If they’d had built that 20 years ago, it would have been different.  You know, ten years ago, three of twenty of us didn’t live here….Forest Lakes didn’t exist.  Hollymead didn’t exist.  North Pointe wasn’t even a sparkle in somebody’s eye…

So because of that, I really bought into the Places 29 plan, which many citizens did….We’ve got to make this a multi-faceted [approach]…  We’ve got to kind of widen 29, we’ve got to use parallel roads, we’ve got to make alternate…roads for people…[In] new developments there should be more than one entrance and exit from a place so that people don’t all have to funnel out right on 29.  And we bought into extending Berkmar Drive, we bought into…the Hillsdale Drive extension, the Best Buy ramp…all these kind of things that were going to have the same effect as doing the bypass.  And I think as it turns out, that’s a way more kind of Charlottesville…way of dealing with things anyway—is not a big road. 

I am appalled that $100 million of eminent domain has gone on or is as we speak is going on….I’m a Democrat and I’m not sure I could do eminent domain.  It makes me very uncomfortable and I think to take $100 million worth of people’s property away to build a road that isn’t – doesn’t meet the needs kind of character of our county and our community and has so many questionable elements and will not fix the traffic.  You know, I’ve seen different numbers, but in the Places 29 study, 90 percent of the traffic on 29 at that end is local….

 

Scottsville District

Chris Dumler (D) - Open Seat

I think I’m going to have to say no to that and I’ll offer a few caveats.  The first caveat, character of our community.  I don’t think anybody in our community enjoys congestion on 29….It’s a huge issue and when you have people who would rather drive to Zion Crossroads or to Waynesboro to go to the Wal-Mart or to the Lowe’s, employment’s hurting in Albemarle County, you’re losing commercial tax base.  If you lose commercial tax base, you either have to cut services or raise residential property rates, so all of these problems are interconnected….

And beyond that, I don’t think there’s anything inherently in opposition to the character of our community and the public vision to the idea of a bypass.  There will always be some people who are against all growth and there will always be some people who are 100% for paving things over, but I think the community as a whole understands that there’s a balance there and that if a solution is right for our community, it should merit public support and the money’s there for it. 

That being said, the Western Bypass…was a road that was envisioned 20, 25 years ago….In essence, it’s a bad value.  If we could…spend $300 million on the Bypass to remove 12,000 cars, 10,000 a day from 29, whatever the estimate is, every study I’ve seen—VDOT’s own studies—indicate that for less money than we would spend on the Bypass, we could take about twice as many cars off 29 if we were to complete the parallel roads projects, if we were to complete Berkmar Extended, Hillsdale Drive, widen 29 at bottlenecks, update the 29/250 interchange and maybe incorporate grade-separated interchanges. 

I know there are certain individuals who do not support that and that’s fine, but as I understand it, there is a better plan out there and maybe the state didn’t come to us and say here’s the money for your better plan and I understand that, but that’s where we have to partner with the state…I’m not opposed to a bypass, but a bypass needs to come after this, this and this and that bypass needs to be the right one for our community…. 

 

Jim Norwood (R) - Open Seat

The Western Bypass, I think, is a needed project.  I am not happy with the fact that we’re using a 20 year old plan.  I think that we could do better – much better – to avoid infringing on private property rights.  And I’m not quite sure if that’s reversible, if what’s come before us right now is a take-it-or-leave-it, which I have a feeling it is.  But do I believe it’s in the character of the community?  I would rather see the bypass rerouted from the airport right to 64 personally. 

Do I think we need a bypass?  Yes.  I used to own a business on 29 and Rio Road and customers were very concerned about the safety on the highway, battling with the trucks and heavy equipment, so I definitely believe we need a parallel road and I think the bypass, once we get bypassed, this angst on behalf of our citizens I think will provide our citizens a good opportunity to get around the congested area of 29.  The other thing that I have to say is a part of my endorsement of the bypass is the University of Virginia, which will benefit tremendously.  And again, as the University is our major economic stimulator in the area, I think that this will be a tremendous benefit to them and therefore will – it’s a prudent decision.

 

White Hall District

Ann Mallek (D) - Incumbent

I do not support construction of the currently designed Western Bypass for the reasons [noted in the question].  It is not helpful and it certainly does not fit in with the Comprehensive Plan.  But if the road is going to be built, we must work to make sure it is the best road we can get.  I’ve been a student of land use and transportation since 1978.  My learning began as part of the national land use study with the League of Women Voters.  I’ve followed the history of the bypass since it was proposed many years ago.  Many different governors, secretaries of transportation, and Commonwealth Transportation Board members have supported the road in concept until they study it in detail, when they change their mind.

We have had a long series of meetings this summer that have thrown the confidence of our citizens into disarray regarding the way local government has operated with this project.  It certainly is not the community vision to have decisions made without input.  It is not the community vision for a small number of people to ignore the clear wishes of a huge majority, both in the meetings and in writing who have addressed their concerns about the enormous environmental impact that this design will have on our community. 

A huge number of citizens are continually concerned about this project, about the lack of transparency in the state-level decisions, the rapid change, rapid escalation of the cost, and the misrepresentation of that cost before the Commonwealth Transportation Board.  I believe [this process has been] inconsistent in every way with our [interest in] our protection of the environment, our protection of our school facilities and our desire for open government.  And we will see how it all turns out.

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