AG McDonnell: We Owe $45M for Stalling Bypass

Lynchburg’s Sen. Steve Newman has been happy to indulge his constituents’ fantasy that the only thing standing between them and vast wealth is Charlottesville building a bypass bypass — a bypass around our existing route 29 bypass. To that end, he recently asked Attorney General Bob McDonnell whether the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has to reimburse VDOT for the money they’ve put into the bypass if the MPO won’t allow the bypass to be built. McDonnell issued an official opinion saying, yes, we’re on the hook for $45.3M, as Jeremy Borden wrote in the Progress yesterday.

Newman hardly needed to ask. After all, McDonnell’s decision was based on a law passed by Martin in 2004 that states explicitly that the MPO will owe that money if it doesn’t allow the bypass to be built. The $300M road would be six miles long, saving just over a minute in travel time. Studies show it would have virtually no impact on traffic or travel time. VDOT has no money to build the road, and has not scheduled any money through 2013, the farthest out that they forecast.

Because I’m a hell of a guy, I’m going to make an offer to the state. I’m willing to assume that $45M in debt from the state. Every penny. Though I’ll want along with it all of the land that VDOT bought with that money in the early and mid 90s. Since they want their money, they’d take that deal. Right?

37 thoughts on “AG McDonnell: We Owe $45M for Stalling Bypass”

  1. That 41.6% McDonnell got in Albemarle in 2005 will seem like a fond memory next time he runs for anything. Asshole.

  2. Removing the bus stop from the travel lane in front of the KFC would help a lot. That is the first lane to back up when traffic is heavy. The bus stop could easily be in front of the best buy.

  3. And McDonnell was just in town doing a fundraiser for Camblos and Harding, too bad we were not invited to give him a piece of our minds!

  4. BrianD,

    No, no, no. Do you really think that anyone is going to change their minds about building a factory or opening a business in Lynchburg because of a 10 minute traffic delay on the way to DC? It’s absurd.

    Lynchburg lost it’s economy because of NAFTA and free trade with China. The jobs went to other countries where it takes days or weeks longer to ship goods to the mid-Atlantic coast north of here. Obviously the bus stop in front of the KFC was not the issue. Nor was the presence of Charlottesville along Route 29.

    If Lynchburg’s jobs were really lost because of some tiny little snag in transportation infrastructure around Charlottesville then can someone tell me why there is not a huge manufacturing boom in Greene County now?

    Do not throw a bone to these people. They are deluded. They got screwed over by a changing economy and they just want someone to point the finger at.

  5. I’m always curious why people don’t think the western bypass WON’T be built. VDOT rarely (if ever) gives back land. The state doesn’t have money for it and when they do VDOT can still build it even if we don’t want it.
    I’m not saying that is what I want, just that the state always has the lnog view. Why get everybody upset till they have the money to build.

  6. Jackson Landers,

    No, no, no. Lynchburg’s economy is not lost; in fact, if you took time to read any economic data from the state, you would find that Lynchburg’s economy fares quite well. You must be thinking of Danville! The fact remains that US 29 was meant to be a inter-state highway (i.e. between states) and any effort made by the state to have this road function in such a way would be a benefit to any industry along the corridor. While you seem to equate Newman’s actions with a crumbling economy in areas other than C-ville, you must not forget that there is a substantial number of business leaders in your own backyard that are pursuing this highway project.

  7. While I would be on the pro side of an alternative route around Charlottesville, some of the arguments against the current alignment would make sense to anyone looking at a map and being familiar with the area. As long as the small counties between Albemarle and Culpeper continue to push for new development along 29, a six mile western route will only serve to create a bottleneck further north and worse than anything that one might encounter today. This is a regional issue and as Perlogik noted, one that the state will deal with one day; whether the solution the state comes up with will be palatable to all is yet to be seen. I’ve seen some suggest an alignment along US 15, which falls relatively close to VDOT’s study area. Haven’t local officials been planning an eastern route around C-ville?

  8. That should be Senator Steve Newman of Lynchburg, not Senator Steve Martin from Chesterfield.

    Well, that’s an embarrassing mistake. Thank you for that, Bob.

  9. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: We can either allow continued growth north and south of town or we can have a bypass bypass. We cannot have both. A bypass beginning at the reservoir would now be useless, a result of the sprawl that runs nearly up to Ruckersville now. With the massive expansion of Hollymead that’s been approved, it would be sheer foolishness to start the road anywhere south of there.

    I am perfectly willing to accept the creation of a bypass bypass provided that with it comes a moratorium on growth over a significant corridor length north and south of it. Or we can allow growth to continue and not have the bypass. I’m happy to accept either outcome. Allowing both would be utter insanity.

  10. I agree the bypass would not work and would be an ecological burden on the reservoir, etc. And I suggested the Rt 15 thing here a while back. There would be some problem areas, like historic Greenwood. I don;t know about Orange. That’s a politically conservative area so maybe they would like it.

    Some people here have a tin ear about Lynchburg though. You gotta realize, they lost I-64, which really hurt them. Look at a map. And economically, look anywhere in Virginia more than 40 miles from an interstate (a real one, not “US 29”) and you will see economic depression and recession.

    It it weren’t so then Columbia, Virginia, would be a tourist town called “River City.” Cool place, where the Rivanna used to cross the James on an aqueduct. But it’s not on the interstate.

    And, one more thing about Lynchburg, etc. The entire road building industry of Virginia used to come out of VMI, just down the road and sympathetic to Southside.

    So we need an alternative not just Charlottesville tree-hugging.

  11. BLOCKQUOTE>”…any effort made by the state to have this road function in such a way would be a benefit to any industry along the corridor.”
    How much industry is still left along 29 (“plenty,” “some,” “very little” is sufficient)?
    Has the trucking industry weighed-in?
    What would keep development from occurring along the bypass bypass and clogging that? Is the Senator from Lynchburg supporting increased passenger rail service along 29 to D.C.? Since there is no money for the bypass bypass, how is the Senator proposing to pay for the road (tax-and-borrow-in-order-to-spend kind of guy?)?

  12. I know the state is getting more liberal, but take a look at a picture of that Bob McDonnell dude. That’s what we’re up against. We might have to compromise. Until the earth runs out of oil and Bob is pushing an oxcart through whatever sprawlville he lives in, or avoids living in. Heh. Well, anyway a compromise that combines progressive transportation with some relief on traffic times to Lynchburg & Southside might pass.

    Those empty four line highways down there remind me of stories about rural France. It’s wonderfully preserved but becoming unpopulated.

  13. I believe that C-ville is one of the few areas where a good number of residents don’t recognize improvements in highway corridors as an economic boost! To answer Cville Eye, Sen. Newman does support passenger rail service. This program would probably move forward more quickly if Meredith Richards would highlight the TDX program instead of seeking rail service to C-ville, exclusively. Interestingly, proponents view this transportation improvement as a boost for the economy! In regards to development along a bypass bypass, restraint seems to be in short supply, particularly in Greene County! A bypass, such as the bypass around the northern side of Lynchburg, should have limited access. Just think of how much less pollution would be created when all the people who have to sit and idle in traffic could just hustle along at 60 and get off the road at their exit in Greene or Madison County! It is already happening in Waynesboro!

  14. Waldo Jaquith Oct 22nd, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    That should be Senator Steve Newman of Lynchburg, not Senator Steve Martin from Chesterfield.

    Well, that’s an embarrassing mistake. Thank you for that, Bob.

    If it is that embarrassing, maybe you should fix it throughout the story. It really does say something about your credibiity.

  15. Didn’t all of this really start 50-60-70 years ago when the then NIMBYs of Virginia got rid of those two north-south interstates planned for west of I-95 and got instead only I-81? Charlottesville ‘needs’ a bypass-bypass because we don’t have an interstate that comes equipped with such things as standard options. It was odd to me 15 years ago when I moved here that 29 didn’t have a bypass. Now with all of the clogging growth along 29 in every direction, it would seem odd to me if it did have one.

  16. If it is that embarrassing, maybe you should fix it throughout the story. It really does say something about your credibiity.

    My credibility? For something a hair worse than a typo? I linked directly to the guy’s Richmond Sunlight entry, so it’s clear that he doesn’t represent Lynchburg, I linked directly to the Daily Progress article, which correctly stated his name, and I provide comments so that people like yourself can openly and freely discuss whatever mistakes that I make.

    So this says something about my credibility? No, it certainly doesn’t. But my ability to type coherently just before going to bed? Yes.

  17. Maybe he was joking. BTW, your idea of buying back the VDOT houses is brilliant. I know a few people who rent them from VDOT though, and they really enjoy the digs.

  18. With the federal government spending around $700 billion just on defense (according to somebody on NPR this morning), and with the political clout of the eastern crescent of the state, I doubt if very much highway building money will be coming this way from outside sources. Perhaps that’s why there is a movement to establish a local transportation district, so that the locals can float bonds to build state roads and pay for it ourselves. Will the good people of Lynchburg contribute to the pot for the bypass bypass?

  19. I wonder why it this is always viewed as a L-burg vs. C-ville issue. This highway is a US highway and the STATE has chosen that it be a major inter-state corridor as opposed to being every little town’s Main Street. That said, the people of Lynchburg are paying for the development of the whole of the corridor. The state has been pursuing such upgrades of 29 for years; I remember sections of 29 between L-burg and C-ville being 2 lane and it wasn’t long ago that every car got to go down the strip through Warrenton. What makes anyone think that the state doesn’t or shouldn’t have similar plans for Charlottesville? If you’ve been to Lynchburg or know anything about it you would realize that the economy here does not and will not hinge on the development of the bypass. I’ve heard opponents say that thru-traffic isn’t an issue, but I would venture to say the a good limited access route through Albemarle and Greene would help keep those dollars heading over the mountain to Waynesboro in the Charlottesville area.

  20. There should be no discussion of new roads until somebody answers where is the money coming from? As I stated above, not the usual places.

  21. Our tax dollars that should bear the burden are heading to places such as the NGIC. I guess that we poor folk down in Lynchburg pay our part by not having an economy built on state and federal support!

  22. The best argument against road money- but not one that anyone has ever really taken seriously! If they did, we would be enjoying fast rail travel throughout the state.

  23. My last couple of posts should answer your question, Waldo! I’m sure you are not under the illusion that the money that your MPO puts into roads comes only from the pockets of those in your area. It would be interesting to see the comparison between how much transportation revenue the state gets from the Lynchburg region versus the Charlottesville region and then compare how much money is given back in the form of total expenditures for transportation. My understanding of highway funding leads me to believe that each state is given federal dollars for projects on US highways, based on tax dollars from transportation sources (fuel taxes, use taxes, a portion of heavy truck sales taxes, etc.) in each state. The areas the contribute more, get more; hence, NOVA and Tidewater get the most, then Richmond, then we all get to fight for the rest! If every area got their “fair share,” a bypass of the southern portion of Lynchburg or Charlottesville wouldn’t even be on the table. If the government sees the value of an upgraded 29 corridor, the people in NOVA, Tidewater, and Richmond will be paying the most, as would anyone who has multiple heavy vehicles that travel throughout the state for business (i.e. me).

  24. Let’s see. The federal government gives each state a certain amount of money based upon certain parameters. The state legislature apportions the federal contribution and its contributions to the local MPO according to political clout, with precedence given to the eastern regions of the state. I hope I am right so far. Each local MPO has to come up with a list of priorities for local projects which is then submitted to the state and the federal government (if federal funds are to be used it must be included in the Charlottesville Area Transportation Study “CATS”) for approval and funding. This is where the politics come in. Eastern Virginia has more political clout at both the federal and state level. Every thing in everybody’s CATS is not funded. It simply says that when enough money amasses in the pipeline for the Charlottesville MPO, it will be spent in this written order of priority. It takes years for this money to build up. Now that Mr. Potts, who ran as an independent for Governor in the last election, has brought it to everybody’s attention that the State has eight bridges in desperate need of repair and that there is not enough money in the budget to take care of the current maintenance requirements of existing highways, our State legislature is undergoing a process to rethink how much is going to go for repairs and how much is going for new. They are more concerned with finding the funds for a new bridge across the Chesapeake and the Potomac than worrying about the votes of 125,000 people in Charlbemarle. That’s the politics at the state level. At the local level, our MPO has moved the Eastern Connector, the Southern Connector, the Meadowcreek Parkway, and realignments of highways 20, 22 and 53, and ahead of a bypass bypass. Here is an interesting link to historical information about the western bypass.

  25. In my life time, I’ve seen 29 grow from nothing but farms and fields 29 North into a complete mess. I don’t envy the planners who have to come up with a way of improving that situation. Besides, even when there are creative and realistic suggestions put forward, I now pretty much have no faith at all that the BOS will actually implement them.

    Personally, I’ve always felt that the Eastern Bypass would be better than the western one. Whatever they build, the sprawl has outpaced it. At this point they’d pretty much need to take it all the way out to 33 to really bypass the hell that is 29. Otherwise, all these roads are just glorified private freeways for the folks in Forest Lakes and Hollymeade.

    Long ago, instead of widening 29, they should have just built overpasses and eliminated stoplights. That could still happen, and it’d probably do alot more good than any bypass would.

  26. I remember 29N when it was a two-lane highway with almost no development period. Now there seems to be twelve lanes at Rio Road and people are still complaining. The problem has been the highway has been allowed to take on the added burden of being a local commercial street in addition to handling through highway traffic. Highways and streets have incompatible uses. What was needed was a highway with local service roads on the sides as Mercury Boulevard had in Tidewater. Either no one had the foresight to anticipate the kind of growth that has occurred in that corridor (I certainly didn’t) or it was thought to be too expensive at the time to worry about. Retrofitting that corridor to handle the two disparate uses will prove to be very expensive. Unfortunately, people expect the BoS and City Council to come up with a solution to a problem that is not clearly defined.

  27. Cville Eye,

    Well said – I definitely do thing the problem all along was a question of mixed intentions for that road. I also agree that whatever solution they come up with now is going to be very expensive. Personally, I’ve always felt that it was a case of willful neglect. Instead of dealing with growth and sprawl in a responsible manner, they dumped it onto 29.

    It reminds me alot of how my little sister used to “clean” her room by just stuffing everything into the closet. Sooner or later she’d have to deal with all the stuff in the closet, and it was always worse by that point than if she’d just cleaned things up in the first place.

  28. Maybe you’ve been around longer than me Cville Eye… I remember SOME two-lane sections! While our solutions might differ, I believe the conclusion is the same- a bundle of money. Until a realistic plan that addresses both the highway and the commercial street aspect of 29, officials will continue to endorse multi-million dollar band-aids on the road.

  29. Back to the $45M. This pay back issue was discussed when the MPO was comprised of Sally Thomas, Charlotte Humphris, Meredith Richards, Kay Slaughter and a voting VDOT representative. The question came up as to how the MPO, which has no money, could reimburse anybody for the money spent on the bypass bypass. The answer was vague enough that it did not deter their vote sliding it off the table. I doubt if anybody in the know is really worried about it even now.

  30. I think that the MPO is clearly not responsible for the funds, and I’m not sure if Newman was really expectiong the MPO, itself, to repay any funds. As the AG’s letter stated, the funds would be repaid by the Culpeper district (or deducted from their appropriations). It seems that as long as the district maintains some future bypass in their plan, this issue is a non-issue!

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