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.

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