WELCOME

  • Charlottesville Tomorrow
    News Center

    The articles on this blog were published during 2005-2012. All of this content has been moved to our new website at www.cvilletomorrow.org
    © 2005-12 Charlottesville Tomorrow
    Our photos have some rights reserved.

Categories

July 18, 2012

State transportation board transfers funds for Hillsdale Drive

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

RICHMOND — The Commonwealth Transportation Board has approved the transfer of $9.7 million in additional funds for Hillsdale Drive Extended

That fully funds the current $13.8 million cost estimate for the Charlottesville road and completes a series of promises made by top Virginia officials in exchange for local support of the Western Bypass of U.S. 29
 
20110615-connaughton
Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton (file photo)
“We’ve made commitments to the community that we would fund certain projects and now we’re fulfilling them,” said Sean Connaughton, Virginia’s secretary of transportation. 
 
At their June meeting, the CTB fully funded the $14.5 replacement of the Belmont Bridge as well as a $7.7 million project to add a second lane on the west-bound on-ramp at the interchange of U.S. 29/250 and Emmet Street
 
The CTB also awarded in June a $136 million design-build contract to a team consisting of Skanska-USA and Branch Highways to build the 6.2-mile bypass. 
Hillsdale Drive Extended was supposed to have been funded at that time, but VDOT officials said a mistake was made with the paperwork. 
 
“We had indicated we would bring it back to the board fully funded through a transfer process,” said Reta Busher, VDOT’s chief of programming and planning. 
 
The funding was reallocated from four projects elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Lynchburg District donated $1.25 million, the Salem District donated $2 million and rest came from two projects in the Staunton District. 
 

Continue reading "State transportation board transfers funds for Hillsdale Drive" »

July 14, 2012

Air station at AHS monitors ozone levels in Albemarle County

DailyProgressBy Ian Lamb
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, July 14, 2012

On the grounds of Albemarle High School, a small metal structure sits sniffing the air for pollutants and recording what it finds. Installed in 2008, the Ambient Air Monitoring System has been measuring the amount of ozone and PM2.5, the term for fine solid and liquid particulates 2.5 micrometers and smaller, in Albemarle County.

20120703-MaxOzone-graph2008-2012YTD
Caption here

The levels of the pollutants are then sent to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to determine whether or not the air in Albemarle meets the Environmental Protection Agency’s federal standards.

Areas that fail to meet the standards are deemed “nonattainment” by the EPA and are required to then formulate a long-term strategy for reducing the amount of pollutants.

However, according to Carolyn Stevens, a DEQ environmental specialist, man-made and industrial pollutants are only one part of the pollution that contributes to nonattainment.

“People instantly think to curtail industry, and there are things we could do for industry, but there are other sources,” said Stevens, referring to strategies employed in nonattainment areas. “There are also environmental and meteorological issues.”

Ozone is a secondary pollutant, which means that it is created when pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) or volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are produced and met with direct sunlight and high temperatures.

“[Nonattainment] is dependent on things we have no control over,” said Stephen Williams, director of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission. “The hotter, more humid it is, the more likely you are to have a nonattainment event.”

Continue reading "Air station at AHS monitors ozone levels in Albemarle County" »

July 12, 2012

Bypass opponents launch campaign to promote alternatives

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, July 12, 2012

Two organizations opposed to the Western Bypass of U.S. 29 in Albemarle County have produced a three-minute video to encourage citizens to consider alternatives to the 6.2-mile, four-lane highway.

“We put this video together to highlight better approaches to solving traffic problems on U.S. 29,” said Morgan Butler of the Southern Environmental Law Center on Thursday. “The community itself has developed an approach that is far less damaging than the bypass; it’s more cost-effective, and it provides benefits that the bypass simply does not.”
 
20120712-hydraulic-spui
This conceptual image from the video depicts how a grade-separated interchange at Hydraulic Road and U.S. 29 might look like. Click here to see the video. Credit: Southern Environmental Law Center
In June, the Commonwealth Transportation Board awarded a $136 million contract to design and build the bypass to a team consisting of Skanska-USA and Branch Highways. 
 
However, the Skanska-Branch team cannot begin work on the final design until after the Virginia Department of Transportation completes an environmental assessment. The last study, known as an environmental impact study, was concluded in 2003. 
 
The Federal Highway Administration is expected to determine in the fall if further scrutiny is required. The environmental groups hope the FHWA will make a decision that stops the bypass once again.
 
“If changes have been made to the proposed project — or new information has become available — since the original EIS that would lead to significant environmental impacts, a supplemental EIS may be warranted,” said Doug Hecox, a FHWA spokesman.
 
Butler said the community’s development of the Places29 Master Plan is one of those changed circumstances. In addition to other transportation improvements, the plan approved in 2011 eventually calls for grade-separated interchanges at Hydraulic Road and Rio Road, the extensions of Hillsdale Drive and Berkmar Drive and an additional off-ramp at the U.S. 29/250 Interchange. 
 

Continue reading "Bypass opponents launch campaign to promote alternatives" »

July 03, 2012

Early bypass plans raise questions

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, July 3, 2012

When the Western Bypass of U.S. 29 is completed as early as July 2016, drivers heading north around Charlottesville will be welcomed by a new traffic signal.

After the intersection with Leonard Sandridge Road, drivers will have a 6.2-mile, signal-free journey before being deposited back on U.S. 29 near Hollymead Town Center in Albemarle’s northern growth area.

“According to the conceptual roadway plans, there will be traffic signals to control traffic flow at the termination of the ramps to and from the U.S. 250/U.S. 29 bypass,” said Lou Hatter, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Culpeper District.

That came as a surprise to Jeff Werner with the Piedmont Environmental Council, a group opposed to the bypass.

“Previously, the bypass design had traffic at both termini flowing onto and off of 29,” Werner said. “Now, with stoplights at the south ... I’m curious how that will cut into that time savings.”

In May, VDOT officials opened up plans from seven different teams that responded to a request for proposals to both design and build the road.

The lowest-priced proposal was a $136 million bid from a team consisting of Skanska USA and Branch Highways. However, the state’s public procurement law prevented the public from initially being able to see the 323-page proposal until the Commonwealth Transportation Board officially awarded a contract on June 20.

Continue reading "Early bypass plans raise questions" »

June 27, 2012

Transportation Secretary Connaughton addresses area business leaders

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 27, 2012

Business leaders from both Charlottesville and Lynchburg gathered at the Doubletree Hotel Wednesday to hear from the man who has overseen the resurrection of the Western Bypass of U.S. 29
 
Connaughton
Sean T. Connaughton, Virginia's Secretary of Transportation (Photo credit: Andrew Shurtleff/Daily Progress)
“This is a region that has grown quite a bit and you have a lot of congestion and, quite honestly, the state has not invested the type of money that you need,” said Sean T. Connaughton, Virginia’s secretary of transportation. 
 
Connaughton was the guest of the North Charlottesville Business Council, a group of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce. The organization was formed in 1993 in part to lobby against alternatives to the bypass. NCBC member Henry Weinschenk, the owner of Express Car Wash, is a long-time opponent of one such alternative, converting signalized intersections along existing U.S. 29 to grade-separated interchanges. 
 
“The bypass is logical, commonsense and it’s the way we’ve been suggesting for a long time,” Weinschenk said. “To build grade-separated interchanges, you’d essentially have to destroy most business along U.S. 29.” 
 
The interchanges were discussed while the Places29 Master Plan was developed in the last decade, but their construction was de-prioritized before the Albemarle Board of Supervisors adopted the plan in February 2011. 
 

Continue reading "Transportation Secretary Connaughton addresses area business leaders " »

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!

 
Wtju-logo

CvilleTomorrow_OffcUse_x750

 
 
Cville-weekly-logo

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" »

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!

 
Wtju-logo

CvilleTomorrow_OffcUse_x750

 
 
Cville-weekly-logo

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" »