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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" »

May 29, 2012

Success, challenges of neighborhood model debated

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The ongoing update of Albemarle’s Comprehensive Plan is giving county officials an opportunity to review a key planning strategy meant to encourage density within the designated growth areas.
 
“The Comprehensive Plan talks about the neighborhood model as being the preferred model of development,” said Elaine Echols, principal planner for the county.
 
12-principles
An abbreviated list of the 12 principles in Albemarle County's Neighborhood Model
The neighborhood model, which was adopted in 2001, has 12 principles ranging from orienting buildings to be more pedestrian friendly to providing clear boundaries between urban and rural areas.
 
“Since that time we’ve had many developments which are achieving the [goal] of the neighborhood model,” Echols said at a recent county Planning Commission work session.
 
Other principles include encouraging a mixture of commercial and residential uses, and relegated parking.
 
Each new neighborhood that makes its way through the community development department is measured against these principles.
 
“It puts [applicants’] eyes on the individual aspects that they need to address, or if they can’t address them it becomes clear why they can’t,” Echols said.

Continue reading "Success, challenges of neighborhood model debated" »

May 24, 2012

Traffic model projects heavy use for a future Eastern Connector

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 23, 2012

A traffic model conducted by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission shows that an Eastern Connector linking U.S. 29 with Route 20 would carry high traffic volumes if its alignment went through a section of Charlottesville’s Pen Park
 
EC-map
This map depicts the traffic model generated by the MPO for a four-lane Eastern Connector that travels through or near Pen Park
However, at Wednesday’s meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, local officials said they found challenges with all four different road alignments and expressed doubts it could be built.
 
“This project has some of the most substantial [traffic] rearrangements of any of the projects we’re looking at,” said Stephen Williams, the executive director of the TJPDC. 
 
The TJPDC is currently updating the MPO’s long-range transportation plan. That document lists all road projects that are both planned for the next 25 years and eligible for federal funding. 
 
In February, the MPO policy board directed staff to model hypothetical projects such as the Southern Parkway, an expansion of the Western Bypass of U.S. 29, as well as the Eastern Connector. 
 
MPO staff used a computer model to calculate how much traffic would be generated by each of the projects. The model is built on projected traffic conditions for the year 2040 and assumes that all projects on the current long-range transportation plan have been completed. 
 
The work involved four alternatives for the Eastern Connector, including two that would enhance Polo Grounds Road and Proffit Road. It also included two alternatives that would travel west of Route 20 north of Darden-Towe Park, cross the Rivanna River, travel along the southern and western edges of Pen Park, and connect to Rio Road. 
 
“Both of these alternatives draw an awful lot of traffic,” Williams said. 
 

Continue reading "Traffic model projects heavy use for a future Eastern Connector " »

May 17, 2012

VDOT to fully fund Belmont Bridge, Hillsdale Drive Extension

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, May 17, 2012

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton appears to have fulfilled a promise to pay for several road projects in return for local support for the Western Bypass of U.S. 29 in Albemarle County.
 
Last summer, Connaughton indicated in writing that he would recommend funding for the Belmont Bridge replacement and an extension of Hillsdale Drive in VDOT’s six-year improvement program for fiscal year 2013.
 
Albemarle Supervisors Duane E. Snow and Rodney Thomas said they would not vote to allow construction funding to be allocated to the bypass unless those projects were also funded.
 
20120517-utterback
 Jim Utterback
“The draft [six-year improvement program] has an additional $10 million for the Belmont Bridge and there’s about that for Hillsdale as well,” said Jim Utterback, the administrator of VDOT’s Culpeper District.
 
Utterback’s comments came during a briefing before the Planning and Coordination Council, an entity made up of Charlottesville, Albemarle and University of Virginia officials.
 
The extension of Hillsdale Drive has a cost estimate of $29.9 million. With only around $13 million allocated, the project will only move forward if shopping center owners along its alignment donate land for the right of way.
 
With this funding, VDOT engineer Brent Sprinkel said the Hillsdale Drive extension would go to advertisement in July 2015. Previously no advertisement date had been specified because funding sources were unclear.
 

Continue reading "VDOT to fully fund Belmont Bridge, Hillsdale Drive Extension" »

May 15, 2012

VDOT further explains bypass budget

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Officials with the Virginia Department of Transportation plan to use lower-than-expected land acquisition costs to help ensure that the 6.2-mile Western Bypass of U.S. 29 in Albemarle County stays within its $244.5 million budget.
 
“The right-of-way estimate has gone down considerably,” said James Utterback, the administrator of VDOT’s Culpeper District.
 
Through July, VDOT spent $47 million on preliminary engineering and to acquire 83 parcels for right-of-way.
 
Also In July, the Commonwealth Transportation Board allocated an additional $197.4 million for the project. Of that amount, $7.4 million was designated for additional engineering, $118.2 million for construction and $71 million to buy the rest of the highway’s route.
 
Seven firms bid on a proposal to design and build the highway. When their prices were opened Friday, Virginia Beach-based Skanska had submitted the lowest bid, at just under $136 million for design and construction.
 
That prompted questions over whether VDOT would have to ask the CTB for additional funding to complete the project. Utterback responded that VDOT will not need $71 million to complete buying land.
 
“We carried a number of $71 million, which had been around for a while, and we hadn’t had a close look at it,” Utterback said. “$33.7 million has been spent and we have $35 million [left] that we’re estimating,” Utterback said.
 

Continue reading "VDOT further explains bypass budget" »

May 14, 2012

Soundboard 5-11-2012 - 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 20120511-Soundboard 

The May 11 show features contributors Graelyn Brashear & Laura Ingles (from C-Ville Weekly) and Sean Tubbs (Charlottesville Tomorrow) discussing: 

  • Bids opened for U.S. 29 Western Bypass
  • City agrees to sell land near Oakwood Cemetery for affordable housing project
  • A look at the local biotechnology sector
  • guest Dorrie Fontaine, Dean of the UVA School of Nursing
  • guest Michele Claibourn, a researcher with UVa's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service on her report "Blacks in Virginia"
  • Charlottesville City Council supports legalization of marijuana

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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May 11, 2012

Virginia Beach firm submits lowest bid for Western Bypass

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, May 11, 2012

The Virginia Department of Transportation says one of the seven bids from firms seeking to design and build the 6.2-mile Western Bypass of U.S. 29 through Albemarle County appears to be within the budget set aside by Virginia’s transportation policy board.
 
However, supporters and opponents of the road were still in disagreement at the end of the day Friday as they sought to understand VDOT's cost calculations. 
Virginia Beach-based Skanska Branch submitted the lowest bid with a proposal of $136 million. The highest bidder provided an estimate of $214 million. The bids were opened in Richmond on Friday.
 
20120511-bid-opening
The prices were opened in a conference room in VDOT's Richmond headquarters
“VDOT will conduct responsiveness checks of these proposals and the required information, and contingent on the results of that review, VDOT will proceed with the notice of intent to award,” said Jeff Hetzer of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Alternative Project Delivery office.
 
The total project budget for the bypass is $244.5 million, including money already spent for preliminary engineering and right of way purchase.
 
The Commonwealth Transportation Board voted 12-1 in July to allocate an additional $197.4 million for the bypass. Of that amount, $7.4 million was designated for more engineering and $118.2 million was set aside for construction.
 
That adds up to $125.6 million, or $10 million less than the Skanska bid.
However, VDOT officials said that the low bids were all within range of the amount allocated by the CTB.
“Based on the apparent low bids all project costs are within the allocated amount in the Six-Year Improvement Program,” said Lou Hatter, spokesman for VDOT’s Culpeper District.
"The design-build process combines preliminary engineering and construction, which totals $139 million," Hatter said, combining $118.2 million for construction and $20.8 for preliminary engineering. 
However, that assumes VDOT has not yet spent ay money on preliminary engineering, which includes field surveys, utility location and public hearings. An internal VDOT cost estimate shows the agency had $9.3 million in preliminary expenditures through June 17, 2011. 
The CTB also designated $71.7 million to complete the purchase of right of way and easements. So far, 83 of 122 target parcels along the route have been purchased at a cost of $33.7 million.
 
“It does appear that these bids are over budget,” said Trip Pollard, director of the land and community program at the Southern Environmental  Law Center. “However, due to the lack of information provided by VDOT, it is not totally clear that this is the case since it could be that other money is available in addition to the amount the CTB specifically set aside last summer.”

Listen using player above or download the podcast: 

Download 20120511-Bypass-Bids

Continue reading "Virginia Beach firm submits lowest bid for Western Bypass" »

April 24, 2012

Group pushes for public hearing on bypass

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, April 24, 2012 

A task force convened to advise the Virginia Department of Transportation on the design of the Western Bypass of U.S. 29 has requested that the agency conduct a full public hearing on the roadway as part of an ongoing environmental assessment.
 
“Public input on new impacts and changed circumstances are crucial to mitigating the impacts of the project,” said Albemarle Supervisor Dennis S. Rooker, chairman of the Jack Jouett Bypass Advisory Committee.
 
In a letter dated April 24 to bypass project manager Harold Jones, Rooker said the 6.2-mile, four-lane highway will be the largest transportation project in Albemarle County since Interstate 64 was built 40 years ago.
 
“We believe it is imperative that the public should be given an opportunity for real and significant input on this project,” Rooker said. “It has enormous environmental and construction-related impacts due to its location in the heart of the urban ring of Albemarle County.”
 

Download Download Rooker's letter to Harold Jones 

To comply with Federal Highway Administration regulations, VDOT is conducting an assessment to determine whether previous federal approvals of the bypass are still valid. VDOT spokesman Lou Hatter said earlier this month that that process will consist of a citizen information meeting, but not a full public hearing at which comments would be entered into the public record.

Continue reading "Group pushes for public hearing on bypass" »

April 18, 2012

VDOT receives 7 bids for Western Bypass; no public scrutiny until June

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Virginia Department of Transportation has received seven bids from firms seeking to design and build the 6.2-mile Western Bypass of U.S. 29
 
However, the public will not be permitted to review the plans until a contract is awarded in June to the lowest qualified bidder.
 
“All documents will be available for inspection… upon award of the contract by the Commonwealth Transportation Board,” said Lou Hatter, the spokesman for VDOT’s Culpeper District.
 
Hatter cited Virginia’s Public Procurement Act, which states that proposals are only public documents upon the official awarding of the bid. 
 
The bids submitted in time for the Tuesday deadline are the technical plans to build the road. A VDOT committee is reviewing the proposals to see if they are qualified. 

Continue reading "VDOT receives 7 bids for Western Bypass; no public scrutiny until June" »

March 30, 2012

Soundboard 3-30-2012 - 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 20120330-Soundboard

The March 30 show features contributors Giles Morris & Laura Ingles (from C-Ville Weekly) and Sean Tubbs (Charlottesville Tomorrow) discussing: 

  • Charlottesville residents celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the health reform law
  • VDOT’s change of plans for the Western Bypass construction
  • Guest Toan Nguyen on the innovative project between the Community Investment Cooperative and Tom Tom Founders Festival
  • land use planning in Charlottesville
  • Guest Kevin Pujanauski on the first Startup Weekend in Virginia for entrepreneurs
  • the upcoming weekend of music with Soundscapes of Jefferson’s America
  • Guest John Donnelly on PVCC’s associate degree program for the inmates of the Fluvanna Women’s Correctional Facility
  • Guest Paul Hughes on the Virginia Food Heritage project
  • and the 10-miler that kicks off tomorrow morning

We hope you enjoy it, and we look forward to your feedback!

 
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