Studies show.... Bypass to use Greer kids as guinea pigs

We teach our school kids to do homework.  Can we teach our county supervisors?

Since the last Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Charlottesville’s 6.2-mile, $230 million-plus Western Bypass was completed in 2003, research studies linking highway exhaust to childhood asthma and reduced lung capacity are legion. Yet three Albemarle County supervisors recently argued against updating the Impact Statement.

“We understand that a recent study of California schoolchildren that live next to freeways is unsettled science and has not been adopted by the EPA as a concern nationwide,” they wrote the Federal Highway Administration. “We know of no evidence in Virginia, or along the 29/250 corridor where many schools are already next to the road, where there have been health issues.”

Supervisor Ken Boyd, our area’s main bypass proponent, is obviously willing to bet that California’s research is wrong. Since his house lies in Key West, almost eight miles from Charlottesville's own Road to Nowhere, he’s making a safe bet. However, the parents, teachers, and school children near the path of this highway– which even VDOT admits will not decrease congestion on U.S. 29– might want some facts before making the same bet.

This so-called “bypass”– which runs primarily near established neighborhoods– begins at UVA’s Darden Graduate School of Business and ends below the Hollymead Town Center after running within a quarter mile of the Colonnades senior living facility and six area schools.

Our Supervisors are apparently hung up on an “unsettled” California study. There are at least two California studies about highways and school kids. According to the American Lung Association: “Tracking 1,759 children between ages 10 and 18, researchers found that those who grew up in more polluted areas face the increased risk of having underdeveloped lungs, which may never recover to their full capacity. The average drop in lung function was 20 percent below what was expected for the child’s age.”

The other study of 3,300 school children in Southern California “found reduced lung function in girls with asthma and boys who spent more time outdoors in areas with high levels of ozone.” High-speed traffic, of course, produces ozone.

Opponents and supporters of cigarette smoking recognize that long-term exposure breeds cancer, asthma, and heart disease. The effects from second-hand smoke, much like the exposure one gets from six daily hours 1,600 feet from a freeway populated by 18-wheelers, don’t arise overnight.

On one point, our Supervisors are right: there haven’t been any traffic-child health studies in Virginia. But do our Supervisors actually believe 1) that health effects show up instantaneously, or 2) that Virginia kids carry some biological immunity to highway exhaust that California children don't possess?

It's not just Californians. Extensive German research, where unification allowed researchers to compare lungs to traffic growth, found similar data. Moreover, a nine-year study of Swiss kids and diesel particulates– something that will increase with the 18-wheel freight traffic the 29 Bypass will bring– found that “during the years with less pollution, the children had fewer episodes of chronic cough, bronchitis, common cold, and conjunctivitis symptoms.”

A 2010 review of American “Traffic-Related Air Pollution” studies by the Boston-based Health Effects Institute found a "causal relationship" between traffic-related air pollution and the exacerbation of asthma and a "suggestive evidence of a causal relationship" with the onset of childhood asthma, as well as non-asthma respiratory symptoms, impaired lung function, as well as cardiovascular mortality.

Our Supervisors argue the EPA has “not adopted” this issue as a “nationwide” concern. Presumably, they mean the Environmental Protection Agency hasn’t yet demanded that schools be moved away from highways. Last year, however, when the EPA established guidelines on school siting near highways, the EPA noted that such decisions should include many factors including types of vehicles, average speeds, wind direction, and whether kids walk and bike. One thing the EPA did urge was the hiring of professional evaluators to check every school presently standing less than half a mile from a major highway.

Agnor-Hurt Elementary, Mary Greer Elementary, Jack Jouett Middle, Albemarle High School, Ivy Creek, and St. Anne's-Belfield School are all within a quarter mile of the planned Western Bypass, and most have playgrounds or athletic fields within 500 feet.

A pop foul from the Greer softball field lands on the Western Bypass route.

And it’s not just children's health. When anyone does the research on this highway project, he or she learns very quickly that our area gets all of the pain and none of the gain. The Bypass won’t decrease congestion or create local long-term jobs, and it sucks up future transportation funding while increasing noise, air, and water pollution in Albemarle County.

Indeed, a former Virginia Business editor subjected the Western Bypass to a rigorous return-on-investment analysis. His conclusion became the title of his report: “The Road to Wealth Destruction.”
A former journalism teacher at Virginia Union University, Randy Salzman is a Charlottesville-based transportation researcher.

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Why not just put everyone in a glass bubble and then we wouldn't have to worry about germs, pollution, toxins, etc ? In fact, rip up all the roads we do have, ban automobile travel and then our lungs would be pristine.

Having lived on Long Island as a youth and attending a school that was located on one of the busiest thoroughfares in Nassau Co, and not suffering from any respiratory ailments, any studies to the contrary serve only those, who for some other reasons, probably monetary, have something to loose with the construction of this bypass. Having said that, it does appear to be to little too late. It should start up in Green and end well below the Fry Springs interchange.

I'd just love to know how a 6.2 mile road can honestly coast $230,000,000.

Get over it, pal. Charlottesville is NOT going to become "Bike World". Most people LIKE - no, THRIVE living in an industrialized civilization in which people drive and ride together in comfort in cars, make medical advancements (sorry about the kitties, Dave Norris), and enjoy modern conveniences. We don't worship Gaia, we are not looking confine humans to a limited number of sites on the planet, we're going to produce children and raise families as we please, and we don't believe human beings are nothing but blights on planet Earth.

You and yours lost. The by-pass is going to be built. The children will be fine. Get a life and move on.

Could you have delivered a more possibly biased article? I usually think better of "The Hook" but not this time. And I agree with "Feet to the Fire"--I frequently have to transport elderly parents to the doctor. There's no way I could manage that transcript on a bicycle!

Oops, that was supposed to be "transport on a bicycle."

This is not a bypass. You're starting at Forest Lakes south. I agree there needs to be a way to get around Cville but it needs to start further north in Greene somewhere. This is outdaded, in another 10 yrs, this will be in the middle of Alb co. 29 north development. I don't know why Ken Boyd is the dictator of the board. I'm not republican or democrat but it seems he is the one who is getting all the air time on the news. Is he the spokesperson?

Sigh. The whole "bikes vs. cars" debate is a distraction and a boring one at that. The supporters of this project should read the excellent analysis that Jim Bacon does. It is linked to at the end of the article. This road is an economic boondoggle. No matter how much you love your car, its hard to justify the paltry return on investment from this project. I would think that real conservatives would expect more from government spending.

"The whole 'bikes vs. cars debate is a distraction and a boring one at that."

No kidding.

If you're going to publish op/ed pieces by radical environmentalists with no attempt at balance, how about labeling it as an op/ed rather than trying to pass off this highly biased piece as news or research. To call Mr. Salzman a "transportation researcher" is to refer to Marx as a "political scientist" - and I'm sure Mr. Salzman would welcome the comparison to Marx.

Comparing this road to a Californian freeway is ridiculous! Los Angeles is one of the smoggiest cities in the country not only because of all the automobile exhaust (which by any measure far exceeds Charlottesville's and most likely always will), but also because of LA's unique geography.

The writer is attempting to make a point using a complete fallacy in logic. Children in California and Virginia are not biologically different, but the air quality is very different. California's air quality is much, much worse.

Wow. This whole C'ville bypass thang should be embarrassing to everyone in the region. The "not in MY back yard" notion is ludicrous. Every community on the Route 29 corridor, from Danville on the NC border to NoVa has built a built a bypass... except Charlottesville. And you deployed that mess on Rt 29 Bus upon yourselves and upon anyone else who visits or passes (or attempts to pass) through the community. It has to be built somewhere and some property owners will lose. Deal with it. C'ville has already taken millions in state money and delivered NOTHING in results. It almost makes John Edwards look slick and cool.

@ Lynne and others - The Hook regularly prints op-ed+essays on the final page of the weekly paper. based on the author of this piece (not a listed reporter) I'll bet Mr. Salzman's highly biased piece shows up on that page of the May 10 edition, although you're right it's not noted as that sort of piece here online I don;t see where any of the previous 'last page' articles have been either and I haven't always agreed with those.

One thing is certain: THE COST WILL SPIRAL up uP UP AND AWAY. This project, if built, would be the poster child for government waste of over-taxxed citizens' money. This road is a poor use of public funds.

If the money gets blown on this little road, will C'ville ever get an actual bypass?

Liberal idiots can conjure any voodoo science "study" and have done so since the Dark Ages to try to keep society from getting past the reach of their little minds. Global warming and now this BS that conveniently ignores about 98% of external factors, let's all keep hunting buffalos with spears because roads are so scary. With media like this touting cretinism, Charlottesville is doomed to stay 20 years behind every other civilized area forever.

This road is way to get workers from suburbs north of the city to UVa and Fontaine. It's a boon to developers. On their other trips the new suburbanites will mostly use the existing 29N, so traffic will go up.

We like Charlottesville just the way it is. We don't want the Bypass to Nowhere. There are no exits on the bypass, except for Leonard Sandridge Drive (and try to get off on Massie Road during rush hour would be like driving into a parking lot). One is stuck on the bypass with Nowhere to Go: Thus, the Bypass to Nowhere.
I have 10 studies done in various parts of the world that reached the same conclusion: reduced pulmonary function in kids within 1600 feet of a major highway. Local and regional air quality was accounted for in each study. The only variable was the effect of pollutants near the major highways.
The Bypass diverts only 10% of traffic away from existing Route 29. The remaining 90% of traffic goes into town via existing Route 29. For 10% diversion of traffic, the cost is not justifiable. Dick Butkiss and Feet to the Fire are not conservatives, but radical extremists who have no rational argument to support the Bypass. All the insults in the world are meaningless and just lend themselves to verification of the incredible stupidity displayed by the Tea Party extremists. Their blithering is complete nonsense.
You can't argue the merits of the Bypass with a Licensed Professional Engineer whose livelihood has included design and construction of many roads during my 30 year career. Even VDOT staff emails verify the disappointment by the engineering community in the Waste of taxpayer dollars for this Bypass. I can tell you that when we say a road has a Level of Service of F, we mean it. The reason for the F rating is that the Bypass only diverts 10% of traffic away from existing Route 29. That does not justify spending more that a quarter billion dollars that does nothing to relieve congestion on Route 29.
The Bypass is a politicians road, not an engineered road. The purpose of this exercise is the misconception that political points and votes would be gained by the Republican Party in Lynchburg, Danville and Martinsville. But, having grown up in that area, I know that the common man is not paying attention to the Charlottesville Bypass, they have lives to lead and that does not include supporting a Bypass that is not in their community. Only the Chamber of Commerce and Big Business support the Bypass and only for monetary reasons and financial gain. Who really benfits from the Bypass? It's not Charlottesville, that's for certain.
So, get over it!! The Bypass won't be built. Start thinking rationally and look at the facts before you run your mouth!!

At the end of the day we need a way to go from 64/29S to north of the airport, and this road doesn't really accomplish that. The environmental concerns, well, I'm no scientist and won't try to play one. However, as per usual, this is a partisan issue that has the conservatives saying build it. Will they also say raise taxes if the state funds don't cover this absurdly expensive project? Once again, I don't understand how 6.2 miles of road, with only one exit, can cost $230,000,000. Where is the justification for this cost? And why are spend thrift Republicans, who want to cut funding for everything under the sun, behind the push for this road?

I hope all the "science skeptics" out there understand that science is also the reason we have bridges, cars, and pavement. These are not natural artifacts of the garden of eden. The internal combustion engine is not only the thing you so proudly associate with your manhood, but also the product of science and engineering. So, it seems rather arbitrary to accept science when it is convenient and then denigrate scientists as "liberals" (whatever that's supposed to mean) when they provide empirical studies that you find inconvenient. Nobody is trying to keep you from driving your car. Let's take a deep breath and see if we can focus on the actual issues. Does this road accomplish any of the stated objectives? If so, are the costs and benefits reasonable?

The post above encouraged us to take a deep breath. I only wish the children in the 6 schools close to the 'Bypass' could take a deep breath without having an Asthma attack.
But on to actual issues......
Folks we don't need this road - there are 11 stoplights at the north end before getting on the open road! And it is called a bypass?????

Just look at all of the children living near I-64 with asthma. 100% do and the highway must b e the reason because the trees on both sides of the road are shorter than those farther away.

I like the conflicting arguments posed in the same comments...

Argument 1: This is a massive super-highway which will kill our children!

Argument 2: This is a nothing road that won't carry any traffic!

The people making these arguments apparently don't realize that they directly conflict? If this road serves no purpose and no one will use it, how will it in any way pose a health risk?

Meanwhile... thank you for the admission that this is a "massive super-highway which will kill our children!" and that the Bypass to Nowhere "won't carry any traffic!" Your comment is verification and confirmation of the facts that pollution from highways hurts students health and that impact of traffic relief on Route 29 is negligible. You finally recognized that the opposition arguments are valid and true.
I am glad you came around to the right way of thinking.

@meanwhile.... , do you think JK"s comment is tongue-in-cheek?

Everyone complaining about this being presented as "news" needs to note the "Essay" listing at the top of the page. It's an opinion piece, not a news piece. That you're conflating the two doesn't make it a problem of bias. It's an essay with a point of view.

That has nothing to do with the merits of that point of view, but it's not being presented as news and settled fact.

Back in the day, some beautiful person friend of JFK got Interstate 64 re-routed from its original plan (Tidewater to Bristol) to go thru C'ville. Y'all got what you wanted. Build a ByPass around the Rt 29 monstrosity that you have created!

Comparing this Bypass to freeways in California is like comparing an anthill to Mt Everest. Laughable at best. Hopefully all the non-thinking liberal lemmings won't jump on the bandwagon and try to use these comparisons for anything but a good chuckle.
Honestly, in most neighborhoods in Southern California, you can't escape the pollution whether you are at home, school, or on a "nature walk". The volume of cars that a CA freeway sees on a daily basis will never be seen by Charlottesville on this road in 10 years!
This "news" item is just a desperate person making a desperate attempt to sway the uninformed, That usually happens when all LOGICAL arguments have been exhausted and unsuccessful.

I'm still waiting to hear a reason from a "pro-bypass" person as to why we should build a road in 2012 that was designed for 1985 traffic patterns. Anyone? Anyone? What are you going to say? There's nothing to say, because it's patently inexcusable.

This "bypass" is a product of the WORST type of political hackery, and an obvious insult to anyone with two neurons to rub together.

I have a new plan: create a better loop by hooking up 64 at Pantops exit, bisecting the Key West development, crossing 29 N at airport and end up south of Fontaine business park. The East site of town needs more ways to get to future shopping malls being built all along 29 N toward Ruckersville. And Mr. Boyd could get there much faster too.

Do we have a current traffic analysis here? How many folks are coming through town who are truly just trying to get around Charlottesville? How many are just trying to leave town for points north and don't want to deal with the wait? If its mostly local then we don't need this road. If we are holding up the wheels of regional progress then i guess it would be the polite southern thing to build those folks the road, but lets put a toll on it! Pay or die of asthma on our clogged death road! Ha ha ha, cough..weeeeze! I avoid 29 north like the plague, so i could care less about the traffic, but knowing the area behind Greer, Stillhouse Mnt. and Lambs road it is clear that the impacts will not be beneficial to anyone but the commuter. Also there are lots of wealthy folks who's property values are gonna get trashed. You want to kill a project?, build it behind a wealthy politicians house. I never heard folks from the trailer park this is going to get leveled complain, but they cant afford expensive lawyers, nor do they know any UVA alum working at the Southern Environmental Law Center, LOL,..... suckers. Lets keep trapping those commuters etc. get them to shop and boost our local Coffers! or at least put a toll on the new road, come on folks, Its all about us, you should know that by now.

It's a state road, built from state money, with more than 90% of it on County land. The point of the road is for people to avoid 29N from the current bypass overpass to just south of the airport.

Why do Charlottesville residents believe that it is their objections that are the most important factors when considering whether or not to build this road? Where does this notion that 40,000 citizens should be able to obstruct the will of 100,000 of their neighbors and the millions of Virginians that are paying for this?

After the obstruction witnessed during the construction of the John Warner Parkway, why should Charlottesville's opinions be regarded as anything but akin to the whining of a petulant child?

295 in Richmond was a good idea.

We need something similar / alternate route for not just 29 North but 250 too. A connection to Northern Albemarle to the city that would be a real by pass. Currently everyone uses Earlysville Road which is windy and narrow - perhaps this road should be made better? Then Northern Albemarle to 250 - many are using Proffit Road to Rt 20 - again, same issue narrow and winding roads. Utilize the routes we have yet make them better? What a concept!

I also agree - comparing California smog to Virginia is ignorant.

Its amazing how easy it is to get us to support an idea without analysis of the facts: just say "liberal" "environmentalists" are against it and that engineers and scientists believe it may have undesirable effects! Then we will kill ourselves to support it and support a bajillion dollar giveaway to whatever entity is paying our government to make it happen. Then we decry big goverment waste. We deserve everything we get.

A couple of commenters believe the California studies do not apply because air quality in Los Angeles is so bad. They obviously have not read these studies. The comparison is made between different schools in the same region, and lung problems were more likely to show up in the schools located in close proximity to a highway. Here's a quote from the NY Times:

“The study is significant in the finding that it isn’t just regional air pollution, which policy makers have focused on,” said Frederica Perera, director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health in New York. “These results indicate that it’s also important to consider local variations in air pollution.”

Of course, this quote comes from a scientist from Columbia (liberal) in a department with environment in its title, so probably about a 1/3 of you will automatically dismiss anything she has to say.

I don't get where you get those numbers from meanwhile. How do you know hundreds of thousands of actual Virginians want to spend their tax money just so Albemarle County can slap on more crap development?

Now, I happen to be a Virginian who would LOVE to see a real bypass, all the way around that Fredricksburg styl sprawl, via the South Eastern part of Charlottesville. I would like to see it connect/use 64E/W, cross over 250, and cut pretty much all the way to Ruckersville. THAT would be a real by pass. And then for development on it to be BANNED. Then all the trucks, the southern half of the county, everyone in the southern part of the state, and most of the city of Charlottesville could avoid the rubbish that has turned 29N into route 3.

I think you find a lot more support if that is what was on order.

Ugh. Grammar police, that would be south eastern part of Charlottesville.

Come on now. Walker Upper Elementary is right next to the 250 bypass and not one of these issues ever came up. I guess the city kids just have tougher lungs.

The truth is: the revived bypass idea is outdated, ineffective, too expensive, unsupported,undemocratic, devoid of any vision, in other words not a solution to future traffic patterns, lifestyles and citizens' demands. In heart surgery terms, would a surgeon only relieve 10% of obstruction in blood flow when a heart attack occurs? Or would she look at the entire arterial grid and decide on the most advantageous approach to maximize optimal passage? Which would also include a hard look at the entirety of the patient, implementing changes in diet, exercise and general stress management. The city and county need to reconvene and come up with a COMPREHENSIVE transportation plan projecting a longterm vision of the future that includes plenty of interconnected green space, mindfulness of neighborhoods and schools, and last but not least the voice of the community. Any future plan needs to integrate the foremost asset of Central Virginia: its stunning natural environment.

This dialogue is jaw-dropping. Once again, pull out a Virginia road map, available for free at your local VDOT office. (You paid for it.) Looking at the border South from NC along the Route 29 Corridor, we have a stellar list of conscientious and responsible communities who have BUILT BYPASSES! Wow! First Danville (right on the border), then Chatham, Gretna, Hurt/Altavista, Lynchburg, Madison Heights, Amherst, Lovingston, (SKIP THE HORROR OF C'VILLE 29/250) and then Northbound to Madison (Madison!), Culpeper, Warrenton, Manassas, on into DC.

Once again, C'ville has taken tens of millions of dollars in fed and state money for the bypass and has nothing to show for it... except the embarrassment and horror that it the current Rt 29 Bus through C'ville. With everyone's "not in my back yard" attitude, and the connex that the beautiful peeps seem to have, it may never get built. Y'all should be embarrassed and remorseful. It Gretna can get it done, why can't a city so important as you believe yourselves to be? Glance again at the VDOT map. You all should be mortified.


Yes, those communities did build bypasses, just as Charlottesville built a bypass many eons ago. The reason why that by[ass has worked so effectively is that it did not allow development on it. The reason why Warrenton's did not is they allowed development.

The point is that the bypass in discussion is no longer a bypass. It's just a bigger road right to a particular bunch of development. Its as useless as the so called Meadowcreek Parkway which saves no one any time, with all the additional stoplights you have to navigate. It did relieve a little bit for a few folks living on the road, granted, but with all the new housing going in, it will all be for naught.

Which, of course, is again, the point. This project will be for naught.

Perhaps some of you posting here don't know that Richmond was named the top asthma capitol of the U.S. in 2010 and 2011 by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation. Virginia Beach ranked 8th last year. We don't have great air quality in VA to begin with, don't fool yourself. So why are we routing a bypass right through the grounds of multiple schools? Kids are more vulnerable to air pollution than adults. That's a fact. Why aren't we giving that a little more thought? Are we in such a hurry to avoid stoplights that we won't carefully look at these studies that link particulates and chemicals in automobile exhaust to lung problems in children?

Perhaps some of you posting here don't know that Richmond was named the top asthma capitol of the U.S. in 2010 and 2011 by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation. Virginia Beach ranked 8th last year. We don't have great air quality in VA to begin with, don't fool yourself.
Is Richmond and VA Beach representative of the Piedmont? This sound ridiculous to me. When did the number of asthma cases become the measure of air quality? I though scientists measure the contents of the air to evaluate that.

The bottom line is that folks (traveling North/South on the US 29 corridor) need a way AROUND the 29/250 mess that C'ville wreaked upon itself and anyone passing through. I pity the daily commuters who must deal with it (and I am a former DC-metro-area commuter). I already have several scenic and creative ways around your mess when I am traveling from southern Virginia to northern Virginia and back, but I expect that the local beautiful people don't like my traveling on their perfectly-paved roads.