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July 18, 2012

Albrecht Place recommended for approval behind Shoppers World

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A new commercial development along U.S. 29 received a favorable recommendation from the Albemarle Planning Commission at its meeting Tuesday.

Albrecht Place will consist of a 48,000-square-foot commercial building and 183-space parking lot on about 3.4 currently wooded acres behind the Shoppers World shopping center and next to the Berkley neighborhood.

20120717-AlbrechtPlaceThe property owner, Sue Albrecht, will be moving her Design Environs company, a commercial interiors firm, to a portion of the new development. Another tenant may include a local gym.

“I am very excited that we have gotten approval from the Planning Commission,” Albrecht said after the unanimous vote.

In its deliberations, the commission overcame concerns about potential traffic impacts that had led county staff to recommend against the project until more information could be considered.

VDOT evaluated the proposal and determined it did not meet the threshold of necessitating a full traffic impact study, but that some additional analysis by the developer would be beneficial. Access to the site would be via Shoppers World, Berkmar Drive, Commonwealth Drive and 29.

“The main issue of concern with this particular rezoning request has to do with transportation,” said Albemarle County senior planner Claudette Grant. “Submission of the traffic impact analysis will provide necessary information that will help us determine what impacts, if any, this development could have on the surrounding roads.”

Woody Parrish, an architect planning the development, said he had shared his own traffic consultant’s research with staff.

“The staff report does acknowledge that this is expected to have fairly light traffic impacts,” Parrish said. “We have had a traffic consultant look at this and they have come up with estimated trip generations and that number turns out to be less than 1 percent of the traffic than is currently using this section of U.S. 29.”

“We are having a hard time spending another $15,000 [on a traffic study] to quantify information that I think we understand well enough to affirm an existing zoning designation for an infill parcel in the development area that’s fully consistent with the goals of the Comprehensive Plan,” Parrish said.

That statement struck a chord with the commission.

“Would your traffic consultant be willing to write a letter?” asked commissioner Mac Lafferty. “This seems to me to be the major hold up.”

Parrish said such a statement could be produced, and that satisfied the commission’s desire for more transportation data.

Continue reading "Albrecht Place recommended for approval behind Shoppers World" »

January 15, 2012

Hollymead movie theater falls through; Town center continues to fill out

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, January 15, 2012

Despite the recent fizzling of plans to open a state-of-the-art 12 screen movie theater, Hollymead Town Center developer Wendell Wood is confident in the market’s continued interest in the development.


He cites four new buildings providing 265,000 square feet of commercial space that are going up next to Kohl’s and says that he is seeing “pretty good demand” from prospective tenants.

“I should think people would be pretty impressed with what’s going on [at Hollymead Town Center] right now,” Wood said.

Even after receiving an approval from the Albemarle County Planning Commission for a larger movie theater, Great Escape Theatres has given up on the project.

“It’s died from inaction,” said Mark Graham, Albemarle’s director of community development, noting that the applicant failed to submit its final paperwork.

Wood identified a different culprit, saying that the theater would not accept the county’s favored traffic pattern in front of the proposed building site. He said that another movie theater has expressed interest in the location but that they also thought that the county’s traffic demands were inappropriate for a cinema.

Continue reading "Hollymead movie theater falls through; Town center continues to fill out" »

October 19, 2011

Albemarle grants preliminary approval for Dunlora Forest

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Albemarle County Planning Commission has approved a critical slopes waiver and preliminary site plan for a 90-home development off Rio Road despite concerns from neighbors that it would further deteriorate traffic conditions on the road.

Dunlora Forest would be located at the corner of Rio Road and Pen Park Road

“You’re taking a beautiful place and you’re creating a traffic disaster,” said Anne Williams, a resident of nearby River Run. “If you don’t live there then you don’t know what we will be giving up if you approve of all of this.”

The Dunlora Forest development would include townhouses, single-family dwellings and duplexes on 22 acres at the corner of Rio and Pen Park Road.

Southern Development had originally hoped to build more homes as part of the project, but scaled back the density on the site following a meeting in July when it appeared the commission was unwilling to grant the critical slopes waiver.

The land is already zoned for high residential use and the Places29 master plan calls for dense development at that location.

“The property is located in the development area which has been identified by the Board [of Supervisors] and the Planning Commission as an area where development should occur,” said senior planner Megan Yaniglos.

The project’s primary entrance would be on Rio Road and its secondary entrance would be on Pen Park Road. This entrance is currently envisioned as being a right-in, right-out entrance, but engineers at the Virginia Department of Transportation will need to approve it.

Continue reading "Albemarle grants preliminary approval for Dunlora Forest" »

October 13, 2011

Albemarle to apply VDOT funding to four sidewalks

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pedestrians in Albemarle’s development areas could have more places to walk if the county’s request for Virginia Department of Transportation revenue-sharing funds is granted.

“We have come up with a list of four sidewalk projects that we feel are important to us and are identified in our master plans and consistent with goals we have in our comprehensive plan,” said David Benish, the county’s chief of planning.

The program requires a local match and is ordinarily used for road projects.
Benish said VDOT intends for the program to pay for projects that can get under construction with two years of the funds being awarded.

“We just don’t have very many road projects that are in that stage of development,” Benish said.
The four projects are spread through the county’s growth area.

Continue reading "Albemarle to apply VDOT funding to four sidewalks" »

October 12, 2011

Albemarle planning commission votes against growth area expansion


By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Albemarle Planning Commission voted 4-2 Tuesday to end further study several requests to expand the county’s growth area as part of the continuing review of the county’s comprehensive plan.

“We don’t need any more residential [development] right now,” said Linda Porterfield, a planning commissioner who represents the Scottsville district.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20111011-APC-Part2

The commission was asked to review 12 specific requests by landowners who wanted their property to be added to the growth area.

Since 1980, the county has set aside five percent of land for development with opportunities being limited in the rest of the county to preserve environmental resources.

The commission’s vote was the first action taken in the comprehensive plan review and update.

“This is a very small piece of the whole project, but this is important in terms of what the future land use maps will look like,” said Elaine Echols, a senior planner with the county.

Continue reading "Albemarle planning commission votes against growth area expansion" »

Albemarle planning commission considers growth area expansion

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, October 12 2011

The Albemarle Planning Commission began the review of the county comprehensive plan Tuesday with a work session on whether to expand the growth area to accommodate new development.

The county adopted a comprehensive plan in 1980 that designated 5 percent of its land to be used for dense residential and commercial use. Development is discouraged in the rest of the county in order to preserve environmental resources.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: 

Download 20111011-APC-Part1

Landowners can ask that their property be added to the growth area. Requests made over the past few years have been deferred until the comprehensive plan began.

“The reason for the postponing of the analysis and decision has to do with an overall look at the ability of the current land use plan designations to help the county accomplish its goals and specifically its growth management goals,” said Elaine Echols, a senior planner with the county.

The county is estimating that it will have an additional 34,000 residents by 2030. Staff estimated there would need to be between 1,770 and 7,438 new units to accommodate that population growth. However, they also concluded there are just over 8,000 units that have been approved by the county but not yet built.

“There is sufficient residential capacity to accommodate population growth through 2030 within current development area boundaries,” said Andy Sorrell, a planner in the county’s community development department.

Since the last comprehensive plan review, 792 acres that had been designated as growth area were sold to the state of Virginia for creation of the new Biscuit Run State Park.

Staff has suggested the county make up for the loss in part by adding the Whittington and Mosby Mountain developments to the growth area for a net gain of 348 acres.

Download Download staff presentation on growth area expansion requests

On the other hand, staff has recommended against approving the 12 requests received including one that would allow for the expansion of Redfields, which is further north of the planned Whittington development on Old Lynchburg Road.

Attorney Stephen Blaine objected that expansion at Whittington might be granted over a project he represents.

“[Redfields] is an area that’s being skipped over for other areas that are less suitable for development,” Blaine said.

But Christina Parker, a Redfields resident, reminded the commission that they denied a rezoning request to expand the development in late September. She said the commission had agreed with the neighborhood that the infrastructure is not in place to handle the additional growth.

Landowner James Morris is seeking to add his land off Barracks Road into the growth area.

“The property is located in the urban ring and surrounded by much more intense usage than the rural area [designation] will allow,” Morris wrote in his request. “It has lost its appeal as a single family home, but would work great for me to have an office there.”

Next door is a 14.7-acre property near the Montvue neighborhood which developer Charles Hurt wants to include in the development area. Hurt is also applying to add a 156.8-acre parcel further up Barracks Road that, if approved, could see an additional 312 to 628 housing units.

Both properties are in the watershed of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir.

“I cannot support any development in the watershed,” said commissioner Tom Loach. “We should take this time when we have extra capacity to look at our patterns of development.”

But Jo Higgins, who is representing Hurt, said the rezoning process could easily allow the developer to mitigate any impact on the watershed.

“The government can be smart about it and use [the comprehensive plan] as a strategic tool,” Higgins said.

The Vermillion family has asked for 27 acres on Stony Point Road to be included in the development area. The Board of Supervisors denied a similar request when the Pantops Master Plan was approved in March 2008.

“Years ago when the growth area began we were included in the initial drawing and we felt it was to our best advantage at that time not to be in the growth area,” said Vermillion said. “We now regret that. It’s become apparent it’s to our advantage because we are 25-acre island surrounded by development.

Map depicting location of Somerset Farm

Another expansion request is for Somerset Farm, a 710 acre tract owned by developer Wendell Wood that is to the east of Route 20. Wood plans to build up to 1,902 homes in the area with 350,000 square feet of commercial or office use.

“Somerset Farm is within walking distance to Monticello High School and Cale Elementary School,” Wood said. “It has public water and sewer. It’s within a mile of an interstate highway and a mile and a half away from downtown Charlottesville.”

Wood said he would develop it by-right if the growth area expansion was not granted.

“I don’t think that would be good planning for this county,” Wood said.

Echols said the goal is for the Board of Supervisors to adopt the comprehensive plan update by January 2013.

Update: After press time, the commission voted 4-2 to recommend against approving any of the growth area expansion requests. Details of the vote will be covered in an upcoming Charlottesville Tomorrow article.


  • 01:00 - Planning Commissioner Cal Morris explains discussion
  • 02:15 - Elaine Echols explains comprehensive planning process and begins review of county demographics
  • 07:15 - Discussion of development in the rural section and whether comprehensive plan goals are being met
  • 14:30 - Planner Andy Sorrell begins review of land-use analysis that concluded the county has enough approved dwelling units
  • 33:30 - Public comment period on demographics and land-use begins
  • 49:30 - Commission further discusses demographics and land use analysis
  • 58:30 - Elaine Echols begins discussion of the 12 expansion areas
  • 1:24:45 - Commission begins discussion of expansion areas


September 29, 2011

Audio & Video of Albemarle Supervisor candidate forum - Rivanna District

2011-election-DPx476On September 28, 2011, Charlottesville Tomorrow and The Daily Progress co-sponsored a candidate forum for the two candidates running for the Rivanna District seat on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors.
Local residents came to the Hollymead Elementary School to hear the candidates respond to questions posed by the moderator, the audience, and each other.  Read this article for complete coverage by The Daily Progress.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110928-Rivanna-Forum

The candidate forum participants
  • Kenneth C. Boyd (R)
  • Cynthia Neff (D)
  • Brian Wheeler, Moderator

20110928-rivanna-shurtleff Photo: Andrew Shurtleff, The Daily Progress
Used with permission

Watch the forum video



 Water plan
As the primary approach for adding to our long term water supply, do you favor dredging and water conservation before construction of a new or taller dam at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir, YES or NO?

 Western Bypass
Do you support construction of the 6.2 mile Western Bypass as currently proposed for U.S. Route 29, YES or NO?

 Property Taxes
Will you consider raising the real estate property tax rate in the next county budget to invest in capital funding priorities, YES or NO?


0:12:10 -- Economic Vitality Plan
What role should local government play to stimulate economic vitality?  Do you support Albemarle’s economic vitality plan and are there areas you recommend for improvement?

0:15:35 -- City-County-UVA relations
How should the city, county and the University of Virginia work together to enhance our community’s unique character and economic vitality?

0:18:55 -- Western Bypass
Do you believe the Western Bypass project is consistent with the character of our community and the public’s vision for transportation in Albemarle County?

0:22:44 -- Growth area boundary adjustments and/or expansions
Should the board consider boundary adjustments for Albemarle County’s designated growth areas to create new locations for business on land currently zoned as rural areas?  Does it matter if the land is in the watershed of the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir?

0:27:20 -- Education
Albemarle County’s vision statement calls for a “world class” public education system.  What does that mean to you and how will you support that goal?

0:30:38 -- Your priorities
What is your top priority for action by the board of supervisors if you are elected?

0:33:46 -- Your qualifications for Board of Supervisors
Please describe your past experience that qualifies you to be on the Albemarle Board of Supervisors.





September 27, 2011

Northern interchange concepts for Western Bypass unveiled at town hall

By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, September 26, 2011

VDOT engineer John Giometti explains one of the concepts for a northern terminus which would use two traffic signals and a "diverging diamond"

A task force convened by Supervisor Kenneth C. Boyd has told the Virginia Department of Transportation how they would like to see a northern terminus for the Western Bypass designed, but they have received no guarantees that their recommendations will be incorporated into the request for proposals that will be issued later this week.

“I implore VDOT to include these recommendations in the initial RFP and/or any subsequent amendments,” said David Shifflet, a task force member who serves as the president of the Forest Lakes Community Association.

Listen using player above or download the podcast: Download 20110926-Town-Hall

 The task force has met twice with VDOT officials and made four basic recommendations.

First, they want to ensure the terminus stays on the west side of U.S. 29 and south of Ashwood Boulevard. Second, they want the footprint to be as small as possible and to have no impact on the existing at-grade intersection of U.S. 29 and Ashwood. Third, they do not want any at-grade interchanges or traffic lights. Fourth, they did not want to allow any u-turns.

“Task force members were unanimous in their support of these recommendations,” Shifflet said “We feel their inclusion into the design requirements of the northern terminus by VDOT is imperative to protect the entrance ways of the Forest Lakes and Hollymead communities.”

At a town hall meeting Monday night, Shifflet said VDOT has been receptive to the recommendations but are unable to guarantee they will be incorporated into the parameters that would be issued as part of the RFP when it is released later this week.

Harold Jones, Jr., a VDOT location and design engineer from Culpeper who is serving as the project manager for the bypass, told the audience that the highway will be planned and constructed using a design-build approach.

“In this format, contractors are involved early on in the design process so their valuable input can be on the front-end to try to come up with a better solution before the final design is complete,” Jones said.

Jones said his job was to receive public input and pass them on to his superiors at VDOT who will make the final call on the parameters of the RFP.

“There will be a decision, beyond me, about what will be included and what won’t be based on public input,” Jones said.  ‘We appreciate all the input we have gotten and it’s being made known throughout [VDOT].  As part as defining the parameters by which the RFP will be issued, some may be incorporated and some may not be.”

After a lengthy question and answer period, VDOT engineers unveiled two conceptual drawings for what the northern terminus might look like. They stressed these were not directives to potential bidders.

“It’s important to figure out what exactly will work and won’t work,” said VDOT engineer John Giometti. “What we’ve done is try to take some of this initial public feedback and see if [requests] can even be accommodated from an engineering standpoint.”

One of the concepts displayed would use two new traffic lights south of Ashwood Boulevard to help traffic navigate a “diverging diamond” design that would briefly see traffic travel on the other side of the road in order to accommodate the bypass on-ramps. VDOT is planning to build the first of these in Virginia at Zion’s Crossroads.

“That would be a small footprint and low-cost because there would not be any bridge structures included in the interchanges,” Giometti said.

However, Giometti said task force members did not like the idea of new traffic lights, so a second conceptual design was created to show how the bypass could connect to U.S. 29 via grade-separated interchanges.

 “This [second] design appears to incorporate the recommendations of the task force,” Shifflet said. “I hope they’re listening. We’re the ones who have to drive up and down this road every day.”

VDOT engineer Harold Jones Jr. explains the other conceptual alternative

Giometti said bidders will not be restricted to the concepts. However, the exact parameters of the RFP will not be known until it is advertised later this week.

Ann Thornber, a member of the task force, said she was happy to have participated in the process because she said it will result in a better road for Forest Lakes.

 “We didn’t want any more stoplights,” Thornber said. “We’re going to be pushing and will keep in touch,” Thornburgh said.

Russell “Mac” Lafferty, an Albemarle County Planning Commissioner and member of the CHART committee, said he was concerned that public input from the task force was not going to be included in the initial RFP.

“They are saying that the first chance to really give public input will be in November,” Lafferty said. “By then, much of the design process may be completed.”

Giometti said the southern interchange would also be designed by the winning contractor and could result in a smaller footprint than the one designed in 1997.

“A three-story flyover ramp is not something that the community has ever been thrilled with so that’s one of the things we’re hoping we can eliminate,” Giometti said.

He added that could mean traffic lights at the southern interchange, but the exact design will not be known until VDOT issues an award.


August 31, 2011

Commercial center on U.S. 29 gets under way

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A long-stalled commercial development on U.S. 29 broke ground Tuesday after the developer announced a $4.2 million loan that will allow the project to move forward.

“There were some dark days during the recession, and it was very hard to get construction financing,” said Mark Green, president of ECorp Management Associates.

The firm is developing the 31,200-square-foot Rivanna Plaza, which Green said is backed by 20 local investors.


At a ceremony Tuesday, Green officially announced that Dunkin Donuts, Ragazzi’s Italian Restaurant and a large daycare facility will be the first three tenants of Rivanna Plaza. The development is located on undeveloped land between the Lowe’s Home Improvement Center, Schewel’s Furniture Store and the Kegler’s Bowling Alley.

In his remarks, Green noted it took 1,333 days between the time he bought the property and the groundbreaking. He said it was impossible to find financing after several major banks collapsed in 2008 during the home mortgage crisis.

“We’ve been through a world economic collapse, our original bank is no longer [in existence] … but we’re still here standing,” Green said.

Green’s holding company for the project, Rivanna Plaza LLC, filed bankruptcy itself in November to buy more time to secure tenants and financing.

“The lending aspect is key,” said Susan Stimart, economic development facilitator for Albemarle County. “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act gave special provisions for commercial lending, but that never really materialized.”

Green said the project is moving forward primarily because of the local involvement, and because 50,000 vehicles travel past the site every day.

Download View .PDF of site plan for Rivanna Plaza

“We have local investors, a local bank, some great local tenants and when the going got tough it was the nationals that high-tailed it out of town but the locals understand the area, understand the potential for this site,” Green said. He added that at least 40 jobs will be created by the new Dunkin Donuts and the daycare.

StellarOne bank agreed to grant a loan for the project in part because of a strong local presence.

“Banks are lending,” said Arnold Blackmon of StellarOne. “The opportunities are a little less in aggregate [but] when we find a quality project in a quality community in a pro-business growth environment, it makes for a phenomenal opportunity.”

The Kiddie Academy, part of a national chain, will have enough room for at least 180 children in an 11,000-square-foot building with a large playground.

Rendering provided by Rivanna Plaza LLC

Andy Rod owns Norson, a company that operates more than a dozen Dunkin Donuts stores in Central Virginia. He originally signed on to be a part of Rivanna Plaza back in 2008.

The county granted a special-use permit allowing the Dunkin Donuts to have a drive-through window.

“In our world, [they’re] very important and certainly having the Kiddie Academy here with the parents dropping off their kids and then driving through the drive-through on the way to work wasn’t something that was lost on us,” Rod said. “We weren’t going to walk away from this project.”

No Dunkin Donuts in the area will be closing.

Ragazzi’s, owned by Bart Neumann, will move from its existing location in the Shopper’s World Plaza.

“We need an upgrade, we need a facelift, and we’ve been there for 15 years,” Neumann said. “The [Shopper’s World] center is in a little disrepair. A lot of changes have been going on with Whole Foods moving out.”

As part of the site plan, a new access road will be built slightly to the north of the site and the existing driveway will be closed. The Kegler’s bowling alley will remain.

Green said the county has already approved the site plan and the design for the buildings. He is now seeking building permits and is hoping construction will be completed by March. Rivanna Place LLC is also seeking tenants for a second phase of development.

Supervisor Rodney Thomas said the project was moving forward in part because the Board of Supervisors has directed staff to encourage economic development.

“This could be the beginning of our business district that we’ve been talking about,” Thomas said. “This is what we’re all about in Albemarle County now.”


June 16, 2011

No state funding for Western Bypass yet

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 16, 2011

RICHMOND — The Commonwealth Transportation Board adopted an $8.3 billion six-year improvement program for highway construction Wednesday, but no additional funding was allocated for the proposed Western Bypass of U.S. 29.

Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton

“It is not in the [state] six year plan because it has not been included for construction in the region’s transportation improvement plan,” said Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization will vote in early summer on a TIP amendment to remove language that blocks the state from moving forward with the Western Bypass.

Earlier this month, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors voted 4-2 to support that policy change.

“Once they do that, we will bring it back to the CTB and request that they amend the plan,” Connaughton added.  He said funding for the project would come from reallocating money from other projects, but did not specify which ones.

James Rich, the area’s representative on the CTB, said he wants to know where the funding for the project would come from. He estimated it would cost between $250 million and $300 million, a large sum that would require large transfers from other projects.

“We allocated everything today [for] six years out,” Rich said. “It’s a zero-sum game and it’s going to have to come from somewhere. We don’t have the power of the federal government of printing money.”

The CTB also accepted a report on the U.S. 29 corridor that has been delayed for several months.

J. Douglas Koelemay

The study prioritized intersections along the way that could be replaced with grade-separated interchanges as traffic increases. It also recommends that meetings be held between Albemarle County and Charlottesville elected officials to create a master plan for the corridor.

“It’s really to start back at a beginning in which people and jurisdictions can state their interests in what’s going to happen,” said J. Douglas Koelemay, Northern Virginia’s representative on the CTB and chair of a subcommittee that produced the report.

Koelemay said U.S. 29 is a corridor of statewide significance that the commonwealth depends upon as a north-south arterial highway. He said the development of a corridor master plan would help protect U.S. 29 as a transportation resource.

“It doesn’t mean that we tell the localities what to do, it just means that once we as a group determine what the plan is, we incorporate it into our decisions and localities incorporate it into theirs,” Koelemay said.

Cord Sterling, representative from the Fredericksburg District, questioned this approach.

“It sounds good philosophically and on paper, but that means one locality can hold others hostage [if] they won’t incorporate [a project] unless it is exactly how the way they want it,” Sterling said.

Dawn Best, legislative affairs committee chair for the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, urged the CTB to support the bypass when and if it comes before them.

Source:  Daily Progress/Ross Bradley

“The U.S. 29 route in Virginia is a regional lifeline for several cities and an essential north-south artery for the commonwealth,” Best said.

“There are powerful special interests in Charlottesville that have scuttled this important project for many, many years.”

Trip Pollard, director of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s land and community program, objected to being described as a “special interest.”

“Obviously it’s a very controversial project,” Pollard said. “We have opposed it for a number of years because we think it is a wasteful and destructive project, and not because we’re a special interest. We think there are cheaper and better solutions.”

Rich said he thinks the vision for the corridor through Charlottesville and Albemarle County was to fund and build projects identified in the Places29 Master Plan such as the construction of Hillsdale Drive extended, a new ramp at the U.S. 29/250 interchange and Berkmar Drive Extended.

The Western Bypass was not part of the plan.

“I thought we were making such great progress on the projects that are doable,” Rich said.

Connaughton said work would soon get under way to resume purchase of right of way for the route and to continue the design.

He said he hopes to get the project advertised for construction before the end of the year because right-of-way purchase and preliminary design are underway.