Parents Concerned about Bypass’ Proximity to Schools

Some opponents of the Western Bypass are concerned about its impact on students in nearby schools, Sean Tubbs writes for Charlottesville Tomorrow. The road winds surprisingly close to Albemarle, Jack Jouett, Greer, Agnor-Hurt, and St. Anne’s Belfield. A 1993 environmental impact study and a 2002 follow-up said that the bypass “would not directly impact any of these schools,” which seems odd, given the road’s proximity to the schools. VDOT anticipates another Federal Highway Administration-mandated reevaluation of the impact of the road on kids nearby, looking at both noise pollution and air pollution and how they’ll affect the thousands of nearby students.

Some parents of kids in the affected schools are sending e-mails around to their fellow parents, highlighting studies on these topics. For instance, EPA has published preliminary, draft guidelines about where to site schools relative to highways, finding that recent research has found adverse effects on the health of children in schools near large roadways. But that research is unrefined, and no mandatory guidelines are yet in place, so this research will presumably play no role in the location of the bypass bypass. That, of course, is not making those parents feel any better.

17 Responses to “Parents Concerned about Bypass’ Proximity to Schools”


  • The issue seems to have been overstated during the hearings. I’m not saying they should be ignored just placed in the proper perspective given traffic amounts predicted and Charlottesville’s overall air quality. Many of the studies cited were done in large very urban areas like Los Angles. Charlottesville isn’t LA in so very many ways but especially in air quality. As with any toxin it’s about dosage and exposure time. Plus swiftly moving traffic produces much lower levels of pollution then stop and go traffic. I have been told that concentration that will come from truck traffic ( whose diesel particles seem to be the largest offenders in the studies) may not be a larger offender then the exposure children now receive waiting to get on school buses each day.

    To be clear if noise pollution is a problem then barriers should go up and the road should be moved as far away from schools as is practical. It’s also worth pointing out that 250 and 64 are also close to many schools in the county and city. The distance that an urban school should be from a heavily traveled highway with rush hour stop and go traffic would be a poor comparison to Albemarle High School and a limited access road. As the website Waldo link to says “The guidelines have not been finalized and should not be cited, quoted or otherwise referenced as representing final EPA guidance.”

  • This is all very old news, the path for the bypass was planned over a decade ago.

    The Rt 250/29 bypass is already adjacent to an elementary school in Charlottesville near Pantops.

    St Anne’s rebuilt their campus to be further from the bypass and to give itself more room. Besides, their old campus was adjacent to the existing Rt 250/29 bypass.

    This just another attempt to stop it from going thru.

  • Oh, FFS. The high school I attended (WAHS) had I-64 on one side of the property and US 250 on the other! One might jokingly argue that that’s how I got this way, but in all seriousness, I’m with jmcnamera. It’s an excuse, and a pretty lame one.

  • Our understanding of risk changes. As children, all of us rode in car seats facing forward. We all survived intact (or we wouldn’t be reading this). But I’m still putting my daughter in a car seat facing backwards, because the medical consensus has changed since I was a child. We now know that a certain small percentage of children did not survive impacts while facing forward and probably could have if they had been facing backwards. It was always dangerous to face forward, but we didn’t know that until fairly recently.

    If peer-reviewed medical literature suggests the Western Bypass would increase exposure to particulate matter and children’s risk of respiratory problems, that has a lot more weight, in my book, than stories about how we used to do things – and how we turned out just fine.

  • Before Waldo points it out- I’m not living in the local area- yes, I’m one of the evil Lynchburg residents. That being said, I have followed this for years, sometimes with chagrin, but more often with amusement. It wasn’t long ago when the anti-bypass buzzwords were the “watershed of the reservoir.” Now that the whole water issue has shifted (interestingly, very close to I-64) the buzzword is “schools.” It has been suggested by some that only 10% of the traffic currently on Seminole will use the bypass, meaning counts of 6-7,000. Those kinds of numbers would not be considered heavy- and would probably be much lower than some of the roads around schools in the area. Sound can certainly be an issue but barriers can take care of the majority of the sound. I wonder what opponents of the bypass will come up with after this argument becomes untenable.
    Just an observation, of course. I think that the route should not have moved forward without a plan to address the areas north of the Rivanna and into Greene County. Before it is all over, I’m predicting upwards of 350 million in money wasted when the state pays for all the dream projects of the region in exchange for the bypass, and still no real plan for the developed areas north of the river.

  • But the reasons to not build this bypass are cumulative, not substitutionary.

  • Did the VDOT in Lynchburg deliberately run their bypass next to six of their schools? Well, DID THEY??

    Putting this “bypass” next to our schools reflects a depraved indifference to our children. Irrespective of the health risks, running a loud sinking freeway next to where our children live, learn, and play is foul, sinking and perverse.

    As to the health impacts, that is for experts to determine, not for proponents or opponents to assert. Opponents have properly raised these concerns to be subject to thoughtful analysis. The above “expert” comments by bypass proponents are simply ignorant assertions. But, the only way to be absolutely sure of safety is not to put a sinking noisy freeway next to six of your schools.

  • tomr, if the traffic counts are so low, then what’s really the need for a bypass? Seems like a lot of money for the benefit what you estimate will be a very low number of users. The question becomes even more relevant considering the fact, that you seem to acknowledge, that those exiting the bypass will immediately run into other traffic problems.

  • Before Waldo points it out- I’m not living in the local area- yes, I’m one of the evil Lynchburg residents.

    FWIW, that’s something worth pointing out not as a criticism, Tom, but because it’s admirable! There probably aren’t a lot of C’ville residents reading Lynchburg blogs, or participating in discussions about transportation issues there. :)

  • That actually not my estimate, skylark. Some have said that, but you can’t have it both ways. If pollution and traffic are an issue, then the people using an “it isn’t needed” argument are wrong. I would bet that more than 25,000 vehicles per day will be using the bypass within a year of its completion and VDOT will put up sound barriers around the areas needed. Particulate emissions could easily be less than those that students at the schools that sit near Hydraulic already experience.
    No, Pekoe, Lynchburg didn’t plan bypasses by schools, but there are three schools 3 miles apart on a road that carries more than the bypass will carry for years, and I don’t think that is “foul, sinking and perverse.” Don’t bother comparing the two localities in regards to road planning, because I think Cville loses that, hands down. Lynchburg is more spread out and as a whole, is more friendly towards development than Cville.
    Maybe twenty years ago planners in the MPO should have seen the writing on the wall and tried to work with VDOT and other planning officials along the corridor to create a better solution for the corridor. With the economy as it is, I question the whole project, but I do find some amusement in the drama that unfolds when a road is discussed in Cville. It seems to start with a few hot button issues, then descends into legal cases, but in the end, the road will probably move forward in some form, just like the Meadowcreek Pkwy.

  • For my business, I follow the news in most Virginia metros. I mostly keep up with Lburg, Roanoke, and Cville news. Cville’s is by far the most interesting and you do a better job with new than DP! I do enjoy presenting an outsider’s view, though I know what I say carries little weight. I’m not one who would ever care enough to attend the MPO meeting, but I did listen to them. Much more interesting and emotional than similar planning meetings in Lynchburg! Having family in Cville and a cousin teaching at one of the schools close to the proposed bypass makes it that much more interesting.

  • The school argument seems to be strange. Parents ride their children around in cars all day long, even across country.

  • This argument sounds a lot like the one that folks were trying to make regarding the turf fields at the schools. The benefits greatly out-weigh the risk.

  • @Webster:

    Until your kid get MRSA.

  • Concerning the school lands that will be lost to the bypass, I think that for the many citizens who have have grown up in these schools and their parents, there is a real sense of loss. The lost land has been used in many ways(walks, science, sports training)by the schools and the loss is very real, aside from the noise and pollution from the road.

  • failing to see the issue...

    RE: “If peer-reviewed medical literature suggests the Western Bypass would increase exposure to particulate matter and children’s risk of respiratory problems, that has a lot more weight, in my book, than stories about how we used to do things – and how we turned out just fine.”

    Is this a call to delay the project until such literature gets published? Can you point to such literature?

    The above sentence is not an argument for or against the bypass being close to schools. Instead, it seems to be a statement that if it were possible to prove that the western bypass was bad for kids, then that proof would support the arguments against the bypass.

    Since, however, the ‘peer-reviewed medical literature’ is not offered, I’ll assume it doesn’t exist. The entire argument can be summed up as: If we can prove it’s bad, we shouldn’t do it. The proponents of this plan haven’t proven that it’s not bad yet and we should delay the project until they prove this negative.

  • You get MRSA from equipment not turf fields.

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