29 Bypass Proposal Halts in Charlottesville

Charlottesville, VA - A letter addressed to the Commissioner of VDOT, from the federal highway administration puts a major roadblock in the way of construction.

Our crews were at a public hearing on the proposed bypass, many folks there, happy with the request from the feds.

Nearly two hundred people spoke at tonight's public hearing here at the Albemarle County Administration Building.

Just a handful of them were in favor of building a bypass.

But the big news Wednesday, a letter, from the federal highway administration, urging VDOT to go back to the drawing board, and consider other options in trying to lessen traffic along the Route 29 corridor.

The letter reads in part, quote: "We advise VDOT to update the purpose and need and reopen the consideration of alternatives."

The letter says a bypass is an outdated approach to the traffic problem.

It goes on to cite a dramatic shift in the overall appearance of the 29 corridor north of Charlottesville.

More than thirty years ago, when this bypass debate began, there were far less residential and commercial properties along that road.

Wednesday, the debate turned to alternative options, namely, overpasses at congested intersections.

Opponents of the bypass say the project would just drive traffic through quiet residential neighborhoods, rather than solve the greater problem.

Morgan Butler a project opponent says, "This has largely been framed as a do the bypass versus a do nothing approach, that Charlottesville is just this stubborn community that doesn't want to fix Route 29. Nothing could be further from the truth. We don't want our friends down state to be sitting in traffic any more than we want to be sitting in traffic."

Many of the supporters Wednesday were from Lynchburg and communities south of Charlottesville.

They say a bypass would drive business south, making it easier for trucks to transport goods and services.

Wednesday's developments are incredibly upsetting for them.

Edie Swann a Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce member says, "It's such a huge setback to see something like this. 20 years of work, hard work, and study after study just come to a slamming halt. It's only going to mean 20 more years or more of further studies and discussions and millions of dollars down the drain."

And many lawmakers in Richmond Wednesday spoke out, outraged over the decision to hinder the project's progress.