The Albemarle County School Board is looking at restricting school buses to major roads on snowy days, Tim Shea reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow. County schools have closed for snow on 11 days this winter (prior to Monday’s snow), and the school transportation director figures that would have been closer to 7 days if they weren’t picking up kids on rural routes. This discussion is prompted by complaints of parents who live in developed areas of the county, whose subdivisions are plowed promptly, and are mystified by school closings. (Of course, there are huge swaths of the county where it can take a day or two for a plow to come through.) Those folks don’t know why school has to be cancelled for all kids just because a minority of kids can’t make it. So the proposal being considered is to establish “plan B routes,” basically driving school buses only on major roads, and putting the onus on parents (and kids) to get themselves to bus stops along those roads. The routes they’re looking at now would leave out 1,600 kids, or about 12% of students.
It turns out, interestingly, that Albemarle has already tried this, in the late 1990s. It didn’t work. There was no place for parents to park, due to snow berms along the side of the road, and of course there were safety issues associated with getting kids to those bus stops. (If it’s not safe for a school bus to drive on unplowed roads, then it’s probably not safe for parents transporting kids, or kids driving themselves to school.)
There’s an added twist. Albemarle is required by law, to provide door-to-door transportation for about 120 disabled students. Period. Some of those students live on roads that are not plowed promptly, which seems like a pretty serious obstacle to implementing this plan.
The board hasn’t taken any action, and isn’t planning to. They’re still looking to find out more about what’s to be done, if anything, about snow days resulting from rural road conditions.
In a stunning development, the Federal Highway Administration is requiring VDOT to prove that the Western Bypass will serve any real purpose and is better than alternatives, Sean Tubbs reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow. The FHA points to the growth of the region and questions whether the two-decade-old plan to build a bypass around our bypass makes sense anymore. (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.) They’ve told VDOT to consider alternatives, which is almost certainly a euphemism for grade-separated interchanges along 29. In perhaps the most gutting line in the letter, they encourage VDOT to “work closely with local representatives to gain their support of the transportation improvement moving forward,” an acknowledgement that only a single member of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors supports the proposed Western Bypass.
As Sean Tubbs writes in the article, “in combination with expected action by the Albemarle Board of Supervisors to withdraw its support, construction of the Western Bypass in the near future now appears very unlikely.”
02/20 Update: Rubbing a little salt in the wound, BOS Democrats passed a surprise resolution against the Western Bypass at last night’s meeting. Ken Boyd, the lone Republican, objected to the unexpected appearance of the resolution, which was met with laughter from the audience and some members of the board. Boyd famously engineered the same thing in 2011, in that case causing the long-dead bypass to rise up again. The whole scene last night amounted to something like revenge fantasy pornography for bypass opponents, who now hold the high ground on nearly every front, an utter reversal from the position of defeat that they occupied three years ago.
City police are issuing a lot more tickets to cyclists lately, Maggie Ambrose reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow. We’re talking about small numbers here—an increase from nine tickets in 2012 to seventeen tickets in 2013—with a plurality of the citations occurring along West Main / University Ave. (A map of every citation location is helpfully included in the article.) Bicyclists are obliged to follow the same transportation laws as motor vehicles, but some cyclists don’t seem to know or care that this is so, and ignore traffic lights, one-way signs, bike on sidewalks, etc.
Interestingly, cyclists who are cited by police are receiving points on their license, as if they had committed the same infraction while driving a car. Given that operating a bicycle doesn’t require a driver’s license, it’s hard to even see why a moving violation on a bicycle should have any impact on one’s driver’s license. (Should somebody who drives a car perfectly but a bicycle badly be punished by prohibiting them from driving a car, thus requiring them to travel by bicycle, which cannot be prohibited by the court?) That said, looking at § 46.2-492, it appears that this practice is required under the law, as there is no exception for non-motorized vehicles.
In today’s Daily Progress, J. Reynolds Hutchins revisits the question of how effective that the red light cameras at Rio and 29 have been, and finds that they’ve correlated with a sharp increase in accidents that the intersection. There were 38 crashes there in 2010, before the cameras were installed. There were 49 and 2011, 31 in 2012, and 33 in 2013 as of July (on pace for 56 for the year). CBS-19′s Rachel Ryan reported this story last year, which the Albemarle County Police Department disputed via a story reported by Dave McNair in The Hook. The police explained that if you only look at the lanes covered by traffic cameras then there’s actually been a decrease in accidents, but why you would only look at those lanes, I cannot imagine. (How about if you only look at accidents when the moon is waxing? Or in days of the month that include the number “3″?)
The cameras are under scrutiny because of the county’s intention to put another photo-red system at the intersection of Stony Point Road and 250. I go through that intersection at least twice each day, on my way to and from town, and I can think of just one time in my life that I’ve seen somebody run the light there. I don’t have the faintest idea of why the county would want to put a camera at that intersection.
The Charlottesville Albemarle Airport is planning a major expansion, Nate Delesline III reports for The Daily Progress. They’re spending $600k to design a new security area, bigger bathrooms, move the gift shop, replace the escalator, expand the seating areas, and a few other changes. No money has been allocated by state or federal officials for the construction, which CHO figures will run between $4 million and $6 million. Construction is due to start in the summer.