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June 22, 2012

Soundboard 6-22-2012 - Charlottesville's news straight from the source

Soundboard

Soundboard: Charlottesville's news straight from the source

A collaborative local news radio program by WTJU 91.1 FM, Charlottesville Tomorrow, and C-Ville Weekly.

Each Friday from 4-5 PM, tune in to hear area journalists and guests discuss local news, culture, and community issues in the Charlottesville area. Whether we're talking about city politics, scientific innovations, or the local music scene, you'll get to hear in-depth discussion about stories that matter.

Soundboard is co-hosted by WTJU's Lewis Reining and Charlottesville Tomorrow's Jennifer Marley.

Podcasts may be downloaded from this website, via RSS, and via Charlottesville Tomorrow on iTunes.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20120622-Soundboard

The June 22 show features contributors Giles Morris, Graelyn Brashear & Laura Ingles (from C-Ville Weekly) and Sean Tubbs & Brian Wheeler (Charlottesville Tomorrow) discussing: 

Soundboard is produced by Robert Packard and Nathan Moore. We hope you enjoy it, and we look forward to your feedback!

 
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June 21, 2012

Western Bypass observers withholding judgment on designs

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 21, 2012

Detailed plans for the Western Bypass of U.S. 29 are now available to the public for the first time following the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s decision Wednesday to award a $135 million contract to design and build the four-lane highway in Albemarle County
 
Technical drawings and construction plans have been kept under wraps since it was announced in early May that the joint venture between Skanska-USA and Branch Highways had submitted the lowest qualified bid. 
 
Both supporters and opponents are reserving judgment over the plans, given their highly technical nature. 
 
“There are 323 pages of plans,” said Albemarle County Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker. “The engineering drawings provided are broken into small sections, which will make it very time consuming to digest.” 
 
“With over 300 pages of technical data released, there is a great deal to be learned from the design-build methodology,” said Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum. “Such transparency, while preserving the integrity of the competitive bidding, should be applauded.”
 
Several people contacted Thursday for this story withheld comment due to the sheer amount of data to sift through. 
 

Continue reading "Western Bypass observers withholding judgment on designs" »

June 20, 2012

Western Bypass contract awarded

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 20, 2012

RICHMOND — The Commonwealth Transportation Board has officially awarded a $135 million contract to the team of Skanska/Branch Highways to design and build the 6.2-mile Western Bypass of U.S. 29 in Albemarle County.

20120620-29bypass-southern-terminus
One of the design drawings released by VDOT for the first time on June 20.  This depicts the Southern terminus of the Western Bypass near Leonard Sandridge Rd and the current U.S. 29/250 bypass. CLICK TO ENLARGE

“The Skanska-Branch joint venture combines the skills, experience and capabilities of two companies with over 120 years of combined experience supporting the motoring public of Virginia,” said Stephen Davis, assistant secretary of Skanska USA, in a letter accompanying the team’s proposal.

The contract was awarded despite several efforts by the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Culpeper District CTB representative to convince his colleagues to stop or delay the project.

“You have all heard today about the very severe [transportation] problems and needs we have in the commonwealth,” said James Rich. “We can’t afford to look the taxpayers of Virginia in the face and throw money on a road to nowhere.”

Rich’s comments came after opponents of the road pleaded with the CTB not to award the contract. One concern is that the $244.5 million road would have a northern terminus that ends in the middle of Albemarle’s growth area.

Lynchburg’s representative on the CTB said it was time to move forward with the contract.

“This is the plan, this is as good as we got, [and] this is as good as it’s going to get,” said Mark Peake. “This is far from being a road to nowhere. This is a road from North Carolina to Washington, D.C.”

Peake said the bypass would improve U.S. 29 as a corridor of statewide significance, allowing for economic development opportunities throughout southern Virginia. He said it was time for state interests to prevail over local opposition.

Continue reading "Western Bypass contract awarded" »

VDOT shares preliminary design for ‘Best Buy Ramp’ project

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 20, 2012

VDOT hosted an informational meeting Wednesday to share the preliminary design of changes being proposed around the interchange of U.S. 250 and 29. The $7.5 million project, also known as the “Best Buy Ramp,” is being designed by engineering firm RK&K.

20120620-Kressin-WhaleyLori Kressin & Diane Whaley speak to VDOT officials

The project includes an additional southbound lane on U.S. 29 from Hydraulic Road to the interchange, an extra lane on the interchange ramp at Best Buy and an added acceleration lane on the 250 Bypass from the interchange to the Barracks Road exit.

Michael Jacobs, the VDOT project manager, encouraged the public to provide input on the plans.

“We are just now beginning the final design and there will be an additional public hearing with a lot more detailed information in the fall,” Jacobs said. “We want the public to give us their comments now; we will try to take those into account, and then we’ll come back in the fall when the plans are further developed.”

At the information session, residents were able to walk through VDOT project boards and ask questions. They were shown the first details of the lane configurations and the multiple retaining walls that will be built between the expanded highway and nearby residents.

“The biggest retaining wall that you will see will be along the 250 Bypass,” Jacobs said. “It will be between five, 10 maybe even 15 feet tall in some areas.”

Continue reading "VDOT shares preliminary design for ‘Best Buy Ramp’ project" »

June 12, 2012

City resident seeks alignment for Eastern Connector near Pen Park

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When the Charlottesville Planning Commission holds a public hearing tonight on a rezoning for a new 204-home neighborhood called Lochlyn Hill, both short-term and long-term transportation issues will be discussed.
 
Ec-milestone
A conceptual drawing depicting the 204-home Lochlyn Hill development. (Source: Milestone Development)
City staff are recommending against the project because of immediate traffic impacts on Rio Road. Longer term, city officials will consider whether the site should accommodate a proposed Eastern Connector.
 
“What is essential now is to protect probably the only viable right-of-way for a future Eastern Connector, which the proposed development at Lochlyn Hill sits astride,” said Bruce Odell, a city resident who has been raising the issue with area officials.
 
However, Milestone Development would have to depict that alignment on their site plan for the neighborhood.
 
The company is seeking a rezoning of 25.8 acres of land in Charlottesville to the west of the city’s Pen Park. The land is currently undeveloped and was once home to the now-closed Meadow Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
 
“We feel we can sufficiently proceed forward with the development of the neighborhood because we have a line on the perimeter on which the road will be shown,” said L.J. Lopez of Milestone Development. “We like to think we’ve been thoughtful for providing an alignment.”
 
However, the company’s materials for the public hearing do not clearly show the alignment, in part because it has never been considered as an official option.
 

Continue reading "City resident seeks alignment for Eastern Connector near Pen Park" »

June 09, 2012

Soundboard 6-8-2012 - Charlottesville's news straight from the source

Soundboard

Soundboard: Charlottesville's news straight from the source

A collaborative local news radio program by WTJU 91.1 FM, Charlottesville Tomorrow, and C-Ville Weekly.

Each Friday from 4-5 PM, tune in to hear area journalists and guests discuss local news, culture, and community issues in the Charlottesville area. Whether we're talking about city politics, scientific innovations, or the local music scene, you'll get to hear in-depth discussion about stories that matter.

Soundboard is co-hosted by WTJU's Lewis Reining and Charlottesville Tomorrow's Jennifer Marley.

Podcasts may be downloaded from this website, via RSS, and via Charlottesville Tomorrow on iTunes.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20120608-Soundboard

The June 8 show features contributors Graelyn Brashear & Laura Ingles (from C-Ville Weekly) and Sean Tubbs (Charlottesville Tomorrow) discussing: 

  • Wintergreen buyer Jim Justice
  • Thursday's state supreme court hearing on a proposed YMCA
  • updates on the Meadowcreek Parkway and the Western Bypass
  • Albemarle County's new leash laws
  • guest Zoe Ward to talk about teaching yoga after studying in India

Soundboard is produced by Robert Packard and Nathan Moore. We hope you enjoy it, and we look forward to your feedback!

 
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June 06, 2012

Board stalemates on pair of Western Bypass votes

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A split Albemarle County Board of Supervisors solidified their stalemate over the Western Bypass of U.S. 29 Wednesday with a pair of 3-3 votes on motions to both oppose and support the 6.2-mile highway. 
 
“Now we have a record for where we are,” said Supervisor Ann H. Mallek, the board’s chair. 
 
20120606-Mallek

Supervisor Ann Mallek and the rest of board listen during matters from the public
Mallek, an opponent of the road, had requested the board take a vote on whether it officially supports the bypass. She said she did not think the board’s 4-2 vote on June 8, 2011, captured the board’s current position on this specific bypass. 
 
Rather, that vote was to direct the board’s representatives in the Metropolitan Planning Organization to remove policy language in opposition to the allocation of construction funding for the project. 
 
Supervisor Duane E. Snow said he was skeptical of Mallek’s resolution. 
 
“By having this motion put forward and then having it defeated, they hope they will tie the hands of us going forward because by the negative vote they hope to kill the bypass,” Snow said. The board’s discussion came after several members of the public expressed their opposition to the road. 
 

Continue reading "Board stalemates on pair of Western Bypass votes" »

June 05, 2012

City Council agrees to condemn land for Meadow Creek Parkway interchange

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Charlottesville City Council voted 3-2 Monday to begin condemnation proceedings for three slivers of land needed to build the grade-separated interchange between the Meadow Creek Parkway and the U.S. 250 Bypass.

However, the city does not expect to condemn land owned by the nearby Covenant School. Covenant’s Lower School occupies the old McIntire High School building on the U.S. 250 Bypass.

20120604-tucker
Angela Tucker briefs Council on the interchange

“We are pleased to report that we have reached a tentative agreement with the Covenant School,” said Angela Tucker, the city’s development services manager.

“I’m delighted that we seem to be reaching a good positive settlement in that,” said City Councilor Kristin Szakos.

Tucker said she did not believe a similar agreement could be reached with Middle Mountain LLC, a corporation that owns three lots in the southwest quadrant of the interchange’s footprint.

Continue reading "City Council agrees to condemn land for Meadow Creek Parkway interchange" »

June 04, 2012

VDOT: Bypass will be built within budget

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, June 4, 2012

A financial plan released by the Virginia Department of Transportation says the agency will be able to fully fund the $244.5 million Western Bypass of U.S. 29 in Albemarle County.

“Based on current cost projections, there is no projected shortfall on the Route 29 Bypass project,” concludes a 17-page draft financial plan obtained by Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Redacted-estimates
VDOT redacted several expenditures from the financial plan

However, the financial plan redacts specific expenditures upon which VDOT is basing that claim. For instance, the agency is not releasing the projected estimate to complete the acquisition of land for right of way. VDOT also redacted projected costs for landscaping, unknown contingencies and the cost for VDOT to oversee the project.

“At this point, those numbers are still exempt from public disclosure under the Virginia Public Procurement Act,” said Lou Hatter, spokesman for VDOT’s Culpeper District.

Hatter explained that the numbers will not be released to the public until June 20, when the Commonwealth Transportation Board is expected to award a $136 million contract to Skanska-Branch of Virginia Beach to design and build the 6.2-mile, four-lane highway. This expenditure was not redacted in the financial plan.

For that amount, Skanska-Branch will conduct final design, right of way acquisition services, utility coordination and relocation, construction and quality control on construction.

Continue reading "VDOT: Bypass will be built within budget" »

June 01, 2012

City moving ahead on parkway interchange following lawsuit resolution

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, June 1, 2012

The City of Charlottesville is proceeding quickly with plans to construct the Meadow Creek Parkway interchange following the dismissal of a legal challenge in federal court.

“Construction should be visibly underway toward the end of this year or the beginning of next year,” said Owen Peery with RK&K, the firm hired to design the interchange.

On Tuesday, Judge Norman K. Moon dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park claiming the Federal Highway Administration had violated federal law when it authorized the $33.5 million project.

“I was not surprised by Judge Moon's ruling, the lawsuit was a long shot but one worth taking,” said City Councilor Dave Norris, an opponent of the parkway. 

Members of the Coalition are still deciding whether to appeal the case.

“We don’t have any decisions about what we’re going to do,” said Coalition member Peter Kleeman. “Some of us are leaning towards an appeal and some of us are not.”

Peery said the plan is to advertise the project for construction bids sometime this summer and to award a contract in October.

However, the city must first complete right of way acquisition and obtain formal authorization from the Federal Highway Administration.

“The design is nearing final completion and the necessary right of way acquisition is ongoing and has been ongoing over the last several months,” Peery said.

Continue reading "City moving ahead on parkway interchange following lawsuit resolution " »