July 21, 2011
By James A. Bacon
The McDonnell administration has pushed through $200 million in funding for the Charlottesville Bypass over strenuous local opposition. The big question: Will the bypass need a bypass five years from now?
The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) voted today to provide $197 million in funding to build the 6-mile Charlottesville Bypass and another $33 million to widen a 1.6-mile stretch of U.S. 29. The controversial bypass project is almost certain to receive final approval Thursday by the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The vote represents a significant victory for the McDonnell administration, which lobbied Republican board members on the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors earlier this month to reverse its previous opposition to the project, thus creating an opening for the CTB deliberation. After years of transportation funding cutbacks across Virginia, the Charlottesville Bypass is likely just the first in a series of mega-projects likely to receive funding as the administration dispenses the proceeds from $3 billion in transportation bond issues leveraged, in many instances, by public-private partnerships.
Ironically, the project received its strongest backing from CTB board members from outside the Charlottesville area, while James Rich, representing the Culpeper transportation district of which Albemarle County is a part, spoke passionately against it. Business and civic leaders in Lynchburg and Danville deem U.S. 29 to be an economic lifeline for the region’s manufacturing sector, and they regard the severe congestion north of Charlottesville as a hindrance to their economic development.
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