Albemarle supervisors voted to move forward with recommendations from the Route 29 Advisory Panel Tuesday night.
The decision came after nearly three hours of public comment and debate centered on one piece of the concept solutions package. Business owners along the Route 29 corridor expressed their concerns about the panel's proposal to build a grade-separated intersection at Rio Road. Supervisor Ken Boyd was the only board member to vote against accepting the package because of this project.
Former Virginia Department of Transportation Commissioner Philip Shucet, who led the Route 29 Advisory Panel, stressed that an interchange at Rio Road is a key piece of the $203 million recommendation.
“Access and mobility have never harmed the economy of an important transportation corridor; congestion has. You've got an opportunity to still get ahead of that in an effective and meaningful manner,” Shucet said.
Representatives backing the group Real Solutions Now supported the idea.
“I've been working on proposals to improve the Route 29 corridor for 20 years, and I think this is the most important opportunity that we've had and are likely to have for a long time,” said Trip Pollard, leader of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Land and Community Program.
But others spoke out against the so-called expressway, saying it would cause some businesses along Route 29 to fail.
“With the city who has two of the five votes on the MPO and the VDOT representative duty bound to vote in favor of the department, it appears the Shucet expressway has been expertly railroaded through this community,” said Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum.
Boyd pushed for more research on this proposed project before moving forward.
“I've never seen a traffic study which tells us what will happen if we put one interchange in, take out two lights and what that's going to do to traffic,” he said.
But the rest of the board wanted to seize this major funding opportunity now.
This motion by the supervisors does not hold power with the Commonwealth Transportation Board. VDOT says the CTB will review the vote taken Tuesday night as it does general comments on the plan. The recommendations will be considered for action by the CTB on June 18.