The proposed Route 29 Western Bypass has been a heated topic of debate for many years, and Wednesday those in opposition took some time to speak out.
Financial and business experts broke down the cost and payback benefits of the bypass. They say building it will cost more than $200 million - and result in only $8 million of public benefits.
Teri Kent joined in on Wednesday's discussion as a parent, environmentalist and a taxpayer. Kent is the founder of an environmental resource site called Better World Betty, and her daughter is a third-grade student at Agnor-Hurt Elementary School, one of the six schools that could be affected by the bypass.
"I'm very concerned about having a highway with exhaust and the environmental impacts of building that highway," Kent said.
Jim Bacon, author of a Virginia public policy blog called Bacon's Rebellion, says the return on investment of the project is poor.
"We want to invest our transportation dollars, our scarce transportation dollars on projects that offer the greatest return, benefit per dollar spent," he said.
Bacon's study of the potential bypass's return on investment finds $8 million in benefits. He says travel time saved makes up for $5.4 million in benefits and the reduction of traffic accidents and injuries makes up the remaining amount.
"It sounds like a lot of money but when you figure it costs $244 million to get those benefits you figure, you crank it out and you get, it's about a 3.4 percent return on investment," Bacon said.
Environmental concerns also sparked conversation. Kent says there are other ways to help with the congestion.
"Let's build up the public transit; let's really promote carpooling, within businesses, within communities. So I mean I have a lot of different ideas," Kent said.
A spokesperson for VDOT says it is still working on the environmental assessment for the project.
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