Lone Bypass Opponent Sacked from CTB

The one member of the Commonwealth Transportation Board who opposes the Western Bypass has been kicked off the board, Sean Tubbs reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow. In an extraordinary action, James Rich—the representative for the Culpeper district, our district, on the statewide board—received a phone call from Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton informing him that he’d been removed. (Those who serve at the pleasure of the governor can be removed once the governor is no longer pleased.) Rich was in the news last month after he made a motion to reallocate the Western Bypass money to an upstate project; Connaughton was angered by the move. He feels certain he was removed because of his opposition to the contentious road, and figures it’s inevitable that Gov. Bob McDonnell will replace him with somebody who supports it.

11 Responses to “Lone Bypass Opponent Sacked from CTB”

  • New Reality says:

    The individual lobbyist profile for “Connaughton, Sean T” on OpenSecrets is an interesting read. If the secretary is the one calling the shots, as Rich alleges, one naturally wonders who is calling the shot-caller’s shots.

  • JoshC says:

    As for who’s calling the shots: might also be the rest of the 29 corridor, which has been screaming for this bypass for decades.

    Charlottesville/Albemarle isn’t the center of the universe.

  • perlogik says:

    Serving at the pleasure of the Governor is exactly that, I don’t find it extraordinary at all that Rich is gone. What is extraordinary is that an appointee would go so solidly against the Governor that appointed him. In Virginia, governors usually get what they want. Sometimes it’s a removal or sometimes it’s getting someone like Dragas reappointed. If the bypass is a major concern of the Governor and his appointee is against it- then it not remotely surprising that a change would be made, as Waldo points out.

    Connaughton carries out the Governor’s wishes and advises the Governor as to how his policy can be better carried out and how to remove impediments to that policy. Rich was in the way of a road that the rest of the state wants. Rich’s statement that “I would hope that the members of the legislature would have some kind of mechanism to have oversight” is political grandstanding and is tinged with sour grapes. There is much less oppositon to the 29 bypass in the General Assembly than there is to the Dragas appointment (and that now looks like a virtual certainty). I’m just waiting for the first lawsuit to be filed against the Bypass which will happen if the Corp of Engineers doesn’t stop the road first.

  • New Reality says:

    perlogik, what’s the point of having a board then? The concept of geographical representation goes back to 1919. why go through all of the pageantry of calling them “representatives” of a district when, as you claim, their decisions and input are made at the behest of the governor alone.

    In fact, you are even assuming CTB has some legitimacy by making the claim that the Western Bypass is “a road that the rest of the state wants.” But you have no way of knowing this if the CTB is expected to vote in favor of the road, whether or not the residents of their district want it to be built or not. You can’t have things both ways.

  • perlogik says:

    There is probably one place where the bypass has a majority of residents in opposition. That’s the district of Albemarle represented by Dennis Rooker. Polls and election in Albemarle clearly show that a majority of citizens are in favor of the bypass. There have been polls that reference options that are not funded and will never occur that one might bring up but that is a meaningless exercise compared with the concrete solution of a fully funded bypass.

    Elections have consequences. Governors get to pick people who will be in agreement with them on large issues. Albemarle last supervisor elections clearly showed that the bypass was wanted in the Boyd/Neff race. There is no question those regions south of here want the bypass. It seems that a large amount of those north counties want the bypass as well.

    Boards are representative and can be true to there regions but there will be occasions where the those appointees will be asked to “dance with the one who brung you”. Lewis choose not to but after the decision had been made, attempted a meaningless maneuver to alter the path that his governor had favored. This bit of petulant behavior demand Lewis’s dismissal, such is the nature of power.

  • New Reality says:

    “Polls and election in Albemarle clearly show that a majority of citizens are in favor of the bypass.”

    This is not clear at all. The JACS poll showed that a majority favored “a bypass” of US 29 traffic, but in another question an equally strong majority favored “evaluating alternatives to the Western Bypass.” There seems to be broad agreement that there is a problem, but equally broad agreement that the current Western Bypass proposal is not the best solution. As to elections: yes, bypass-supporter Boyd won, but bypass-opponent Dumler also won. (and Boyd’s support is hardly a ringing endorsement for the idea. His position was basically that the bypass is not a great solution, but VDOT will punish us for resisting so we should comply.) It’s hard to isolate even a big issue as a reason for success in a local election.

    Charlottesville City Council voted to oppose the bypass.

    As to the other localities in the VDOT Culpeper district, I really have no idea. But I doubt the average resident of Rappahannock County has a burning desire to spend a couple hundred million of their own money to just maybe (and probably not) save a minute or two of driving on their next trip to Lynchburg.

    But I think Mr. Rich knows where the residents of his former district stand better than you or I do. It’s safe to assume he has been accurately representing us, and this is useful information to a Governor who needs to account for the wishes of all of his constituents.

  • perlogik says:

    Your memory of the last Albemarle election and the candidates focus on the bypass are not borne out by the facts. Boyd’s support of the bypass was tempered by getting other monies to address transportation issue that the state had ignored for decades.

    I will say again that talking about alternatives that are unfunded is the same as doing nothing at all. Unfunded alternatives allow people like yourself to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. You’re not opposed to idea of a bypass just the reality of the one we could actually get built.

    Boyd-Neff was clearly about the bypass. They both spent money on ads on radio and TV that firmly stated their view on the bypass. Listen to her answer.
    starts at 32:36

    Dumler’s election was not focused the bypass and to say otherwise to project your belief on fact that don’t exist. His problem was it’s cost which turn out to be 50% lower then he thought it would be.
    starts at 17:44

    Charlottesville City Council opposition? So what, they usually oppose anything that Albemarle wants to do and this is no exception. The Bypass isn’t in the city.

    Mr. Rich might be a NIMBY only when it comes to this issue. His career lobbying for Shell Oil when they wanted to drill in the Arctic suggest something else again. Rich got his chance to voice his opposition to the bypass then he resigned. As Rich said in Cville “adds that McDonnell “never asked me to vote one way or the other.”(on the bypass)”.

  • Pete says:

    “…let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

    That assumes that the proposed bypass bypass is even good. It sucks! It bypasses a handful of stoplights (many of which are new) and costs an arm and a leg.

    Furthermore, once it’s built, whenever this region asks for more road funding, we will be told “Sorry, we can’t afford it; we already built you the $250 million road you asked for.”

  • Trees down says:

    Pete, It’ s 14 stop lights -please don’t pretend that not having to drive though that mess won’t save time. It’s not a $250 million road it’s half that. It’s a good road because it can be built in this area where if it’s not built nothing else will take it’s place for over a decade, if every.

    As for other road projects – without the bypass we won’t get $33 million to widen 29.. Pete I disagree with your entire post which seems devoid of facts.

  • Andrew says:

    According to VDOT, the estimated cost of the bypass is $244 million. That includes $32 million for preliminary engineerng, $79 million for right of way, and 133 million for construction. As of June 2012, $48 million of the $244 had already been spent.

    Full financial details are available here:

  • tomr says:

    If they were smart, they’d make it 30M more and make a functional northbound interchange at the southern terminus. Dumb.

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