Eastern Connector Back on the Table

The Metropolitan Planning Organization wants to re-study the possibility of an “eastern connector,” Sean Tubbs reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow. As the planned western bypass will route traffic around the city to the west, the idea is to have a corresponding road routing traffic around the city to the east. Of course, the bypass already does both of these things, so this would be another bypass bypass. The idea is basically to connect these two points:

Map with markers at Rio/29 and Pantops

If this seems familiar, it’s because we’ve already gone through this. At a 2007 public hearing, the public overwhelmingly opposed it. Then, in 2008, $500,000 in studies found that every possible road alignment was either ineffective or impossible. So later that year, both the BOS and City Council shelved the matter, and in 2011 the BOS finally eliminated it from their plans entirely. Without carving an entirely new road through a densely settled, suburban portion of the county, studies found that the only remaining options wouldn’t actually save anybody any time. Starting it farther north would be plowing through Forest Lakes, ending it farther east would go through Keswick estates.

So what’s changed? Well, nothing, except that there’s a $250,000 federal grant that the MPO figures they could get to study the ecological impact of an impossible or ineffective new road. Supervisors Rodney Thomas and Duane Snow say that they’d want the road to bypass Pantops entirely, since that’s become such a tangle, but doing that would involve going either over or through the Southwest Mountains, a feat on the scale of Claudius Crozet’s famous tunnel through the Blue Ridge, with the added twist of having to then run the road straight through some of the most valuable estates in Virginia. More than a century ago, there was a road crossing the Southwest Mountains at Hammocks Gap, as a part of the route to the Rivanna River from Milton but that was abandoned in favor of less arduously steep routes to the north (now Route 33 in Orange) and to the south (now 250 over Pantops).

And the cycle begins again.

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