Monthly Archive for May, 2013

Bypass Costs Rising with Interchange Proposals

There was a public review of the options for the southern terminus of the bypass bypass on Thursday, Sean Tubbs reports for Charlottesville Tomorrow, as VDOT tries to deal with the shortcomings of the winning bid. Skanska/Branch Highways got the contract with an amazingly low $135M design/build proposal (all of the other bids were higher), but VDOT found that the use of traffic lights on the termini would add nearly two minutes to the average trip. (That was just one corner that was cut by Skanska/Branch to low-ball their bid.) Now there are two new options, a loop ramp (7 MB PDF) and a fly-over ramp (7 MB PDF), to address that shortcoming. Nobody’s saying how much these proposals will add to Skanska’s billing, but it’s surely in the tens of millions.

This whole process is likely to be repeated with the northern terminus, too, as it suffers from the same design deficiency. As Jim Bacon writes on his blog, an internal VDOT technical memo shows that they’re concerned about traffic patterns at the northern end, finding that people will have to weave across many lanes of traffic in order to go either north or south when exiting the bypass. The memo concludes “that the entire intersection would have to be reconfigured in some fashion for this weave to be successful, possibly including an elevated section through the intersection.”

This $135M project is liable to balloon to $200–250M before this road is completed. Given that VDOT only has a $139M budget for the entire project, I have to wonder what the threshold is for the Commonwealth Transportation Board to pull the plug on this. After the lone opponent of the Western Bypass was kicked off the CTB in January, it may be a while until any other board members are willing to speak up.

Council Creates a Human Rights Council

After months of study and debate, Charlottesville City Council established a human rights commission this week, Aaron Richardson reports in the Progress. Armed with an anti-discrimination ordinance, the commission will receive complaints of institutional discrimination, such as by employers or landlords, and either refer those complainants to relevant organizations (e.g., the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) or investigate the claims for possible prosecution by the city attorney. For employment claims, they can only consider claims from people who have been fired from their job at an company that employs 6–14 people. There are four similar commissions in the state, all in northern Virginia. Council’s vote was 3–1, with Mayor Satyendra Huja abstaining (he didn’t support the entire ordinance) and Kathy Galvin opposing it (she believes it’s unnecessary and a waste of money.)

Photo: Fire Hydrant in the Middle of the Sidewalk

Jocelyn Dale shares this photo of a new hydrant that the city just installed on Forest Hills Ave, just off Cherry.

Sidewalk obstruction.

As Jocelyn asks, why make the sidewalk impassable to anybody in a wheelchair, walker, or pushing a stroller? I hope the city fixes this bone-headed mistake as soon as possible.

Rugby Closed Last Night Under Mysterious Circumstances

A chunk of Rugby Road was shut down for an hour last night, WINA and The Daily Progress report, and nobody’s saying why. From 9:30–10:30, the stretch between Rosser and Preston was closed by state police, who stuck around for hours afterwards. The spokeswoman for the state agency would say only that it was part of a law enforcement investigation spanning agencies. Yet the Charlottesville Police said they have no awareness of the operation, and the the folks at the State Police division headquarters in Appomattox also said that they had nothing to do with it.

8 PM Update: As I wrote the above, the scene was repeating itself, with The Department of Homeland Security and the State Police arresting three people for printing fake IDs. Apparently last night was about executing a search warrant. Today they rolled up in an enormous armored vehicle, arresting two guys at the house, and grabbing another at Harris Teeter a short time later, after he tried to escape. It seems like a hell of a show of force for some guys printing fake IDs, so perhaps this was more than a few guys selling lousy knock-off licenses to college students to buy beer. They’ve been charged with mail fraud, fraud related activity in connection with IDs, and criminal complaint wire fraud.