Future of Rt. 29 Western Bypass Unclear After Election Day
ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va (WVIR) -
Wednesday, Albemarle County Democrats are celebrating a victory in the supervisors race. The two Republican incumbents, Rodney Thomas and Duane Snow, were swept out Tuesday. Both were supporters of the Route 29 Western Bypass project.
Now the big question is: will their plans for the controversial bypass be out the door too?
It was regular business for the board Wednesday morning during its work session with the election results looming from Tuesday.
The Democratic wins were substantial. Liz Palmer and Brad Sheffield won over the Republican supervisors by 14 percent each.
The makeup of the board changes dramatically in the New Year - Snow and Thomas are out. Both are members of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which sets the agenda for transportation projects in Albemarle. Snow and Thomas both voted to build the 6.2-mile highway - but Election Day puts the Route 29 Western Bypass's future in limbo.
"Is this the best road? Maybe not. But the money’s there. The will was there to go ahead. So that could all change,” said Snow.
Snow and Thomas’ Democratic opponents ran on a platform to stop the bypass.
“I think the results last night show that this community strongly favors less damaging and more cost-effective solutions to traffic issues on Route 29,” said Morgan Butler, Southern Environmental Law Center senior attorney.
The lone bypass supporter remaining on the board in January will be Ken Boyd. He does not believe the Democratic upset was a referendum. Boyd says if the board were to reverse course and try to block the bypass, the county could be footing a nearly $50 million bill for work already done.
He says that money would come from other road projects. "I firmly believe Hillsdale Drive will go away. Best Buy ramp will go away. Belmont Bridge will go away. Widening 29 will go away with the bypass," Boyd said.
A state law says the transportation commissioner, who will be appointed by the new governor, could choose to waive the county's reimbursement.
A VDOT spokesperson says nothing has changed with the bypass plans.
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