VDOT Holds Meeting on Western Bypass Environmental Effects - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

VDOT Holds Meeting on Western Bypass Environmental Effects

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Thursday night, the public had a chance to talk one on one with Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) employees about how the Route 29 Western Bypass could impact the environment.  But VDOT wasn't the only agency that set up shop.  Groups opposed to the environmental assessment made their presence known as well.

As people made their way to VDOT's informational meeting at Jack Jouett Middle School, they were greeted with petitions.  Groups opposed to the assessment say they don't want people to be blindsided by this current design.

"Unfortunately, the analysis that they've done is asking the public to put blinders on," said Morgan Butler with the Southern Environmental Law Center. 

It was an opportunity people were more than eager to take advantage of - tell VDOT exactly how they feel about VDOT's environmental assessment.

"What this gives the members of the public the opportunity to do is to come in and speak with members of our study team who have been involved in this project and involved in this assessment for the last year," Lou Hatter with VDOT said.

The assessment examines how the bypass will impact specific environmental issues including air quality, water control, and land use.  But members of the Southern Environmental Law Center say the study is misleading.

"They are looking at an old design for the project that's not even under consideration anymore," Butler said.  "The study they put out does not consider alternatives that will fix the traffic problems on Route 29 directly."

Hatter said, "The purpose of the 29 bypass project is to address the congestion between the South Fork Rivanna Reservoir and the intersection with the Route 250 Bypass and this project still does that."

Albemarle High School student Amory Fisher says he's concerned about a recent study that found students living near a highway have an increased risk of lung problems.

"This road passes through right next to six schools, and this study was done over an eight-year period, but if you go Agnor Hurt or Greer then to Jack Jouett, then to Albemarle High School, that's 13 years," Fisher said. 

"Positive or negative we want to hear from people, that's why we're having this meeting tonight," Hatter said.  "That's why we're going through this public comment process."

VDOT says there were no significant changes since it did a similar assessment back in 2003.  The agency will use Thursday night's feedback to make revisions.  More than 500 people showed up to the informational meeting.

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