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FHWA Advises VDOT to Reconsider Western Bypass Alternatives - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

FHWA Advises VDOT to Reconsider Western Bypass Alternatives

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RICHMOND, Va (WVIR) -

After decades of debate, the Route 29 Western Bypass battle could be heading back to square one.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued recommendations to state officials Wednesday, urging VDOT to find other alternatives to the long languishing project. That means it's back to the drawing board.

In a letter to VDOT Commissioner Charles Kilpatrick Tuesday night, the FHWA advised the department to "update the purpose and need, and reopen the consideration of alternatives [to the Western Bypass]."

"They did not believe the current configuration of the road would meet the need and purpose, and asked us to look at alternatives," Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne told NBC29 in an exclusive interview.

FHWA further suggested the best means for moving forward on a project would be a supplemental environmental impact statement, or EIS. These suggestions may put the project on ice, perhaps permanently, after decades of discussion.

"Because of our inability to move forward, they determined that the need and purpose was not met because of the passage of time," Layne said.

Layne says Governor McAuliffe and his administration are committed to finding a workable, cost-effective solution to solve traffic and congestion issues along the Charlottesville/Albemarle Rt. 29 corridor. But that could take time.

At a meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) Wednesday, officials said land acquired for the bypass route could potentially be sold off to fund another federal highway project. It's unclear, though, what will happen to other federal funds already set aside.

"We're out half a billion dollars trying to protect this corridor of statewide significance," said Lynchburg District CTB member Mark Peake.

Peake is one of several CTB members frustrated by this latest setback. He blames Charlottesville area leaders for the delay, and says it's time to get serious.

"They come in here, they've been fighting it for years," Peake said. "Oh, we want to get something done. Oh forget the western bypass now, we want the eastern bypass...or we want to do this. I want to see some agreement."

Layne has instructed VDOT Commissioner Kilpatrick to report back to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) at its meeting March 19 with recommendations about the best way to move forward.

"The direction we were going in we'll need to alter, and I would hope that the citizens and local officials will work with us in coming up with a solution," Layne said.

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