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.