Bypass Design to Be Much Slower

An internal VDOT report finds that the design of the Western Bypass, as accepted in the form of the lowest bid for the project, requires an average of nearly three minutes to clear the southern interchange. As Sean Tubbs explains for Charlottesville Tomorrow, entering the bypass bypass from the south, on Old Ivy Road, involves intersections and traffic lights, rather than a standard flyover entrance ramp, a decision apparently made to save money. Although that saves tens of millions of dollars, it also adds 1:48 to the average trip. Some years ago VDOT found that the road would only save an average of something like 90 seconds over the existing route; adding 108 seconds to that would appear to negate its benefits. (If any total time-saved numbers have been calculated for the planned design, over the existing 29->bypass->29 route, I’m not aware of them.)

Since this is the obvious route for traffic leaving big events at Scott Stadium and the John Paul Jones arena, that means big delays and long lines to get onto the road. Adding to the difficulties, part of how the ostensible cost of this project was shaved down to $136M is that, accelerating away from that light, vehicles will be going up a 11.4% grade. It’s difficult to overstate how steep that is. The steepest highways in the country include I-70 in Colorado when crossing the Rockies (8%), and I-17 out of Phoenix (7%). US-64 in Tennessee used to get up to 8% when going over Monteagle Mountain, but that was too dangerous, and has since been reengineered to be less steep. So trucks pulling away from that light are going to take a very, very long time to get up to speed. These two factors probably do a lot to explain the extra 1:48 that this intersection-based entrance ramp will result in.

14 Responses to “Bypass Design to Be Much Slower”


  • Sounds like my wife coming home and being excited about saving $150.00 on those new pair of boots… how much were they again?

    Working hard to refrain on snarky big government pissing away money comments…

  • We need to stay in the reality-based community. The bypass obviously would save more the 90 seconds. When 29N was widened about 25 years ago it was fairly fast for about ten years, and that is probably when the study was done. Today you’d lose 90 second just in the first block of Seminole (at Best Buy).

    Richmond is insisting on this road, and Cville sounding ridiculous is what they expect. The real issues are environmental; the giveaway to real estate interests at either end of the no-exit road; and yes, the lousy intersection and the fact that it ends before half the traffic lights to Warrenton.

    The push for the road is from non-interstate Danville & Lynchburg, but the biggest users would be commuters, and if built it would greatly change home buying decisions. Fontaine Research Park is at one end, and even more jobs lie beyond the northern end. So it’s sprawlopolis.

  • It’s worth mentioning that at the northern terminus people have paid a whole lot of money for properties zoned “rural” right next to the river. All these people are still soaking up land use valuation tax breaks too (because clearly Wood and Hurt are “farmers”) It’s clear to me and others that the real justification for this road involved a freeway to a new growth area expansion on 29. I hope one day the full story on the back room deals that made this road possible will be public. On thing is for certain though, this road is not and never was meant to solve traffic problems. If that’s what was wanted then we could have put overpasses on 29 long ago (and we still should). If leaders in Lynchburg had any sense, then they’d demand that too.

  • Yay! Bypass thread!

    Funfact: These arguments pre-date the modern internet.

  • Figured if I checked here, I’d find some stunning arguments for “Traffic Calming.” Sure found no disappointment by the usual suspects in providing those. Enjoy a moment to appreciate the real green love. It’s definitely not Palmolive but nevertheless your still going to be soaked by it.

  • The bypass obviously would save more the 90 seconds. When 29N was widened about 25 years ago it was fairly fast for about ten years, and that is probably when the study was done. Today you’d lose 90 second just in the first block of Seminole (at Best Buy).

    That’s why I was careful to contextualize those numbers—because there are changes that have occurred in the interim. While it’s true that the initial benefits of that widening are gone, it’s also true that the lights have been synchronized. For example, last week I had to drive almost exactly the length of the Western Bypass (getting on the 29 bypass at Old Ivy, and going to Forest Lakes), and I hit just one red light the whole way. I drove 45 the entire time. On the other hand, I needed to take the same route at 5:30 PM on a recent weekday, and it was an interminable trip. The stretch from Best Buy to Hydraulic is just awful; adding that new shopping center there has only made things worse.

    I don’t know that it is obvious that this road would save more than ninety seconds, for the average trip. I have had trips along 29N that, if I could have taken an empty bypass around at 50 MPH, would have definitely been much faster. But I’ve also had trips along 29N that I don’t see how they could have taken much less time, especially given the traffic light to get onto this new road. The point is that I cannot have the totality of drivers’ experiences, and I cannot pretend to know what benefits that this road would provide for the average driver on the average trip. It would be absurd to build a bypass around our bypass without first doing the math on how much time would be saved. Surely VDOT has done the math on this…right?

  • Figured if I checked here, I’d find some stunning arguments for “Traffic Calming.” Sure found no disappointment by the usual suspects in providing those.

    Nobody but you has mentioned traffic calming.

  • The bypass is being constructed to facilitate traffic passing THROUGH the Cville area. Arguments about how it will not speed up local traffic issues really don’t count. In all truthfulness I enjoy “missing” the downtown Lynchburg and Danville areas when I drive south. That is the goal that the rest of Virginia wants to achieve here, not improve local traffic.

  • Perhaps it’s telling that I got entirely the wrong idea from the headline of this story, before clicking in and reading it. “Design of the bypass is going to be EVEN SLOWER?” I thought to myself. “It’s already taken how many years to design? Can it BE any slower?” :)

    By the time they arrive at a design, get it built, and open it, I predict that the area (and the US 29 traffic) will have grown enough that a bypass to the bypass bypass will be needed. :)

  • The bypass is being constructed to facilitate traffic passing THROUGH the Cville area.

    Right, and now it’s going to take 1:48 longer to pass through Charlottesville.

  • Waldo, you’re comparing the bypass time to the time calculated for Rt29 a decade or more ago. Even with the lights in sync, 29 is slower today than it was back then.

    The real issue is that the county keeps allowing more growth on a constricted road that has no alternatives. If Target & co had been placed elsewhere around the city, we could spread the traffic out, for instance by placing it off one of the interstate’s exits near Rt 250 or on Rt 29 south of the city.

  • They are not taking down more traffic lights on 29 biz these days…

  • Where do you all have to be that you’re in such a hurry? 90 seconds, 108 seconds…?

    I mean, do what you must I guess, but I like you guys, and don’t want you to stroke out prematurely.

  • Lowest bid for the project doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best option overall. Especially if it means bigger costs ( maintenance, repair etc. )later on once the project is completed!

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