Rt. 29 Bypass vs. 3 Interchanges

writes: Recent media reports have indicated an impasse between VDOT and the local Metropolitan Planning Organization over the building of the Route 29 Western bypass versus construction of interchanges at Rio, Greenbrier, and Hydraulic. Given that the estimated cost of the bypass is $30 million dollars per mile, is there any information available about how much the three interchanges would cost to compare with the cost of the road? Or their proposed size and scale? How will this proposed new mall at the Sperry Marine property impact MPO and VDOT discussions on the interchanges, given the traffic [it] will contribute to 29?

8 thoughts on “Rt. 29 Bypass vs. 3 Interchanges”

  1. For some of the answers to your questions, check out the Southern Environmental Law Center’s report on the interchange design, which is the design that has been brought to the MPO. SELC hired the firm Glading Jackson to do design drawings of the intersection at Hydraulic and 29N and discuss the benefits of the interchange versus the bypass. They report does discuss the proposed Sperry site although I do not think it contains cost comparisons to the proposed Bypass. The report can be located at:


    Tobin Scipione

    Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation

  2. How will this proposed new mall at the Sperry Marine property impact MPO and VDOT discussions on the interchanges, given the traffic [it] will contribute to 29?

    Here’s a directly related bit from today’s Progress article about Albemarle Place (formerly, the Sperry site):

    That was the none-too-subtle subtext at Tuesday’s joint Albemarle-Charlottesville planning commission meeting on the proposed Sperry development at the northwest corner of U.S. 29 and Hydraulic Road.

    Known as Albemarle Place, the mixed-use project in the heart of Albemarle’s busiest growth area would include more than 1.7 million square feet of retail, residential and office space.

    Movie theaters, restaurants, cafes, a hotel, an outdoor plaza and a slew of high-end shops like Pottery Barn, Ralph Lauren and Williams Sonoma would sit side by side with loft apartments.

    The challenge facing the county and city is how to fit this development, which meets most of Albemarle’s neighborhood-model criteria, into a transportation network that will soon be performing at an unacceptable “F” level, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

    Success will depend on convincing the state to adopt workable solutions to the growing traffic problem, area planning officials said.

    “The vision has to be clear,” said William Rieley, a member of the county’s seven-member Planning Commission who has applied to represent the Charlottesville area on the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

    “There’s a lot of agreement,” Rieley said of the city and county. “There’s a lot of common ground here locally … so I think we should articulate that.”

    Jared C. Loewenstein, who chairs the county Planning Commission, agreed with Rieley. “It would be a really useful thing to present a united front” to state officials, he said.

    The vision, as Rieley, Loewenstein and the other county and city planning commissioners crammed into the second-floor County Office Building conference room saw it, consists of upgrading key intersections on U.S. 29 north of Charlottesville.

    It does not include building the long-debated, six-mile U.S. 29 western bypass, which has been supported by VDOT and many businesses on U.S. 29 and opposed by Albemarle’s Board of Supervisors.

    Making the vision clear to VDOT and other state officials, planning commissioners said, could entail amending both localities’ comprehensive plans and lobbying local transportation boards such as the Metropolitan Planning Organization.

    But that might not produce results fast enough, some Charlottesville planning commissioners suggested, adding that new developments sprouting up on U.S. 29 north of the city would exacerbate existing congestion.

    “It’s going to be a continual problem,” said Herman Key, who chairs the city Planning Commission.

    Key and other city planning commissioners cited the proposed Hollymead Town Center and the Towers Land Trust project, just a few miles up the road from the Sperry site.

    Other attendees went further, saying that broadcasting Charlottesville and Albemarle’s vision is unlikely to produce any results — now or ever.

    “This was solved with the grade-separated interchanges,” said Jeff Werner of the Piedmont Environmental Council, referring to the interchanges Albemarle officials have long supported for U.S. 29 at Hydraulic and Rio roads and Greenbrier Drive.

    Noting that VDOT has sidestepped building the interchanges, even though they were part of an agreement hammered out years ago between state and local officials, Werner added: “The bypass is basically hijacking any solution at the intersections.”

  3. This may sound like simple pessimism, but after watching this debate for more than two decades I doubt that the decision will be made from the logical weighing of alternatives.

    When I arrived in Charlottesville in the summer of 1981 the discussions pro and con the Western Bypass were raging. Twenty-one years later, they still are and the arguments have not changed all that much.

    Opponents don’t care how the traffic problem is solved as long as it doesn’t involve a Western Bypass.

    Supporters of the interchanges on 29 may think traffic will run much more smoothly under that solution but the difference will be marginal. You will still have lines of cars from busy Hydraulic, Greenbrier and Rio Road traffic stacked up at the entrance ramps onto 29, zipping into traffic every time an opening occurs and often starting to maneuver immediately to get into the left lanes. And the accordion effect of merging traffic will cause continual slowdowns, especially as tractor-trailers have to gear down and then gear back up. Moreover, before and after the three big interchanges we would still be confronted by traffic signals at Ivy Road, Arlington Boulevard, Barracks Road, the entrance to Fashion Square, Woodbrook Drive and the entrance to Wal-Mart.

    The basic problem is that Charlottesville-Albemarle never did any real long-range planning and allowed the property along 29 to become one of the world’s largest strip malls, with hundreds of entry/exit points to stores all the way from Ivy Road to the Rivanna River bridge. Much if not most of the traffic on 29 is generated by people going into and out of those stores (merging into 29 traffic and taking a while to get up to speed). It took many years for the localities to allow much commercial development on 250 East beyond Free Bridge, and for all those years 29 was the only place to put new mini-malls and big box stores.

    Route 29 is our version of the Washington Beltway. Get used to it — we’re paying for our leaders’ past sins.

  4. I doubt that the decision will be made from the logical weighing of alternatives.

    Of course not. The decision to build something(s) or nothing has been, and will continue to be, a political contest.

    But, given your skepticism about the role of logic in the process, it is interesting to note that much of your post concerns the logical (or so purported – as I’m sure someone here will debate your explanation) reasons against of the efficacy of grade-separated interchanges.

    Anyone know where UVA sits now on the proposed Bypass? That North Grounds connector-road would certainly funnel-in folks to the new stadium for basketball (and, eventually, I am sure, concerts/revivals/you-name-it).

  5. Postscript from Pilgrim:

    Pardon the addendum, but consider: A few hundred yards north of the proposed Hydraulic Road interchange there is a traffic light at the entrance to Seminole Square Shopping Center — and traffic onto and off 29 is quite heavy there. A few hundred yards south is a traffic light just north of the current 250 Bypass, which frequently catches vehicles leaving the bypass before they can even start to get up to speed on 29.

    The Rio Road interchange will be bracketed — within a stone’s throw — to the south by (2) entrances to Fashion Square, and to the north by the entrance to the Albemarle Square Center and beyond that by the traffic light on Woodbrook Drive.

    By the time traffic gets up to speed and rolls though the overpass areas it will be starting to slow down for the next traffic light.

    In essence, you would have a “limited access” through-road for no more than a quarter of a mile anywhere along 29 — unless, of course, we either closed off several important side roads or built another half dozen or so overpasses.

  6. I live in Washington DC and am making some plans to move to Charlottesville, economy permitting. One of the great things about the place is that it has no traffic to speak of. I can zip accross town in 15 minutes without any stress. I’ve driven during the “rush hour” if you can call it that. Peice of cake.

    Don’t get me wrong, I despise bad traffic. One of the worst things you can do about the problem is to add lanes. it will simply encourage sprawl north of town along route 29.

    Does anyone else think that $30 million per mile of road is a bit costly?

  7. It is VERY costly… It’s extremely wasteful… That’s why knowing what the cost of the three interchanges would be compared to the per mile figure would be helpful.

  8. The Sperry development is about the worst idea I have heard of–the Hydraulic Road 29N is one of the heaviest trafficked interchanges on overburdened Emmett St. I don’t think any development of the Sperry property should occur until and if the western bypass is built. Does anyone know when hearings will be held on the Sperry Development and if there will be organized opposition?

    Al in Barterbrook

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