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.

5 thoughts on “Bypass Costs Rising with Interchange Proposals”

  1. As a regular user of the Rivanna Trail, these drawings of the proposed souther terminus make me very sad. The area that is to be used for all these access ramps and so forth is simply beautiful woods. So many people hike, run, and bike through there, it would be aweful to see all that bulldozed for this road. And I’m sure that is the case for other sections of this road, but the Rivanna Trail is so special, and yet it seems under assault. No mention is made on these drawings of it.

  2. The county has no problem putting roads through our city parks. Why should all this outside traffic get funneled through Charlottesville?

  3. I think that most people that oppose this road have shown themselves to be wildly wrong about estimating cost to complete. More amazingly is when they are called on their previous mistakes most seem remarkably unflappable in making new projections untethered to any supporting facts. Calling Skanska bid “amazingly low” is editorializing and based on opponents not wanting it to built at all. I have found that non engineers are lousy at using their “gut” to guesstimate the cost of major infrastructure projects.

    So for now, the burden of proof that it will cost “much more” is lacking any credible math from those who don’t want the road. Skanska has put it’s bid down and they are, by all that I have read, a very capable and well respected construction firm with an international reputation.

    If VDOT wants to change a design from what was bid that will probably cost more money-that’s not unreasonable in a design build project. They can build the road as bid but if you want a different design than required from the bid process will cost more money, Skanska would be happy to do that as well. That’s not evil or deceptive, it’s the nature of construction. Considering how much others in Virginia want this road I doubt getting 20% more money will be a major issue.

    So just guesstimating that the increase of cost will be 50% – 100% seems currently unjustified by facts. I’m not saying that it’s not possible just that the construction folks I’ve talked to think it could be done for 10-20% more. But to be fair I haven’t seen their math either.

  4. Webster 52, I was unaware that this proposed road was going through a city park. Perhaps you are alluding to the Meadowcreek Parkway, which is nearing completion.

    My understanding was that the City Council approved the city portion of that road. How on earth could you seriously make the claim that the county is “putting roads through our city parks”? How, exactly, does the county do that?

  5. Yes, I am talking about the Meadowcreek Parkway. All it will do is funnel cars to 250 east (where cars are already backed up to park street)and make a route to the southern part of the county. The only way that the county would entertain proposals for an Eastern connector is if it goes through Penn Park. If the Best Buy ramp gets enlarged, it will make a bad traffic pattern worse. Build the bypass and get some this traffic to go around the city. Cville’s population hasn’t changed much in the last 50 yrs but the Albemarle’s has exploded.

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