Barnum's beaming: The Greatest bypass on Earth!

Have you ever walked into a store soon after opening hours to find the advertised sale item "all sold out?”

Come to the Holiday Inn Thursday, May 23 and get a look at a “bait and switch” tactic so impressive that P.T. Barnum must be beaming in his grave.  

No salesman will try to sell you something for a few dollars more. Instead, you’ll be looking at three new designs running up a tab somewhere between $20 million and $56 million for the Southern Terminus of the so-called Western Bypass. The Daily Progress' editorial page, a bypass proponent, gave us the $56 million recently when it "chuckled" about Virginia accepting a Bypass design which actually increases the amount of time it’ll take for trucks to get through Charlottesville. The Western Bypass doesn't bypass anything.

As soon as Virginia accepted the Skanska-Branch design for the so-called bypass last summer, however, several other contractors complained that Skanska’s $135.9 million bid ($78 million below the high bid) didn’t meet the state’s Request for Proposal, and one filed a formal complaint. Plus, within weeks of accepting that low bid to build the 6.2-mile highway to end-run four miles of U.S. 29N, Virginia began meetings to address Skanska's “accepted" Southern Terminus around Darden Business School and St. Anne’s Belfield. 

Thursday, months after taxpayers and Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) members were baited with reasonable sounding costs, that Southern Terminus switch will be on display. Be forewarned, though: The 5pm May 23 public meeting– not public hearing– at the Emmet Street Holiday Inn is only about the Southern Terminus. There’s another six miles of the Bypass awaiting “new and improved” P.T. Barnum moments.

A few years ago, both Uncle Sam and Indiana researched design-build projects, with the Federal Highway Administration noting that DB projects, like the Bypass, always cost more money, and Indiana officials saying never construct any major project using design-build because there's so much potential for costs to spiral, even if there isn’t corruption.

Indiana was talking about “major” projects being over $32 million, a tad more than one-tenth the so-far identified costs of Charlottesville’s Bypass, which, remember, ends south of Hollymead, Forest Lakes, and the Hollymead Town Center, and threatens the lungs of students in six area schools while possibly paving over three historic grave sites and dumping sand and dirt into the water supply for 100,000 people.

Proponents argue Virginia will provide another $145 million to extend this Bypass past the airport, meanwhile, and another $32 million to make existing 29N into a parkway. They allegedly don’t realize the Skanska design– even as non-functional as it exists today– will tie up half of all state moneys coming to our Commonwealth Transportation Board district between now and 2050. None of the other eight counties, or even Crozet, Scottsville, or Pantops, will want their share of transportation dollars, will they?

Jim Rich, such a fiscal conservative that he spent 20 years on Virginia’s GOP executive committee, was fired by a Republican governor and secretary of transportation last fall for talking fiscal sense over this “colossal waste of taxpayer money,” and our three Republican county supervisors voted against overwhelming public comment in May last year not to ask VDOT to hold a public hearing on this Bypass.

Why? Perhaps because there has only been one return-on-investment study, and the former Virginia Business editor found only $8 million in public benefits for a highway which is costing taxpayers, before change orders, $244 million. That return is less than the interest on all those borrowed dollars.

Why? Perhaps because if Virginia built overpasses at Rio and Hydraulic Road-– as VDOT originally sequenced first– we’d get more congestion relief and better safety for one-third the cost. Building the overpasses for $80 million would address almost four-fifths of all accidents on 29N and change the road’s “level of service” from an F to a B. Constructing this Bypass will leave the intersections on 29N at an F.

Why? Perhaps because if the parents at STAB, or Greer, or Albemarle High pay attention, they’ll realize the EPA today suggests any school within a half mile of a major highway should be tested to see what effect traffic exhaust is having on student health, yet Virginia is about to build a major highway within one-third of a mile of six schools.

Why? Perhaps because if we taxpayers go back and look up the data we’ll find that VDOT spent $1.5 million in 2009 to clearly find “the Western Bypass is no longer an effective option to serve corridor-wide trips"– its mandated purpose.

Why? Perhaps because as our own Albemarle County plan puts it, "The (Bypass) project as designed does not meet community or regional needs, and has been determined too costly for the transportation benefits to be gained. The transportation goals of the Bypass can be more effectively realized with improvements to the existing Route 29 corridor.”

In short, if citizens start thinking about dollars and sense, they’ll realize why Taxpayers for Common Sense calls the Bypass one of the eight worst projects in the nation.

When I was a young reporter, the famous political slogan was “The Buck Stops Here.” Now, old and gray, I'm wondering when it changed to a slight variation of P.T. Barnum: “Never Give the Taxpayers an Even Break.”


A former journalism professor, Randy Salzman is a Charlottesville-based transportation researcher.


As always Randy, an excellent discussion on this catastrophe in the making.

Design build project in NoVa have topped 1 billion dollars and have come in on budget, ROI road analysis is mostly nonsense. It takes unproven assumptions and there is little comparison data to do a proper proof of concept. It seems in Jim Bacon's article (to which Salzman refers) the math was done backwards to prove the author's point. His data can't be compared to other road projects. Bacon doesn't compare his "new math" to any other project or show that ANY road has ever been found worthy to build using his newly created and untested formulas.

Exhaust health studies are based on much denser traffic on places like the 101 in Los Angles not the factorially smaller traffic of the proposed bypass. If the author's point is that placing a school near one of the country's traffic jammed highway (the 101 in LA) is not a good idea fine, I agree but there is no math or study that shows the amount of traffic and the speeds proposed will have any measurable harm from the 250 bypass. The studies also ignore that new EPA truck exhaust standards (the main identified harmful component of all these studies) will be reduced significantly in the near future . It has been pointed out that students will probably inhale more harmful exhaust at the school itself then from the bypass. The Albemarle School policy is to idle buses to keep the interiors warm while students wait to be loaded. If bus exhaust is so harmful them we should immediately stop this practice next fall. It's wasteful of gas, cost money and puts our students at significant risk (at least according to the author of the article).

And the last gem Taxpayers for Common Sense is an organization that was once a beacon of truth when rum by the late Senator William Proxmire but since his death in 2005 they have done little of note but repeat a long ago study not based on the cost figures we use to day. It's old news based on old data. Salzman has used how much it cost to build a highway in Indiana to say the bypass is too costly per mile. Of course he could have used the cost to build a road in West Virginia which would have shown that hilly topography will always cost more than plat straight Indiana. Compare in per mile cost to West Virginia 250 is quite a bargain.

Cherry picked data, inaccurate comparisons and enviro scare tactics of most of this debate have put this very article on the "sucker is born every minute" fast track. With Charlottesville Tomorrow, Southern Environmental Center, Dennis Rooker and Salzman all trying to sell you that "the end of civilization is nigh" if this road is built. The biggest crime that been proven is it's too close to Mr. Rooker's house. The fact that in polls, the people of Albemarle, have supported the the Bypass 60% to 40% or that election of Supervisors supporting the road have already occurred are simply "Inconvenient truths" to these side show barkers of doom and gloom.

Last summer, VDOT signed a contract for a bypass proposal. The winning bidder’s design includes a southern terminus with two new traffic lights and a stretch with an 11% roadway grade—more than twice as steep as the climb up Interstate 64 over Afton Mountain. When these problems were brought to VDOT’s attention, the warnings were dismissed.

Recently many of these issues have brought to light documents dating back to shortly after the time VDOT entered into the contract in which VDOT and its consultants express serious concerns about traffic flow and potential safety problems at the proposed southern terminus. My concern is that now VDOT will likely then use the public’s input to justify expensive design changes that taxpayers will have to pay for.
VDOT knew at the time that the design was inferior and would likely need to be changed. There are many issues with the Southern Terminus that make it impossible to show that there is any warrant to time savings or safety at this junction of the proposed road:
Please answer these questions:
1. For the terminus to work, wouldn't the redesign will add a substantial amount onto the cost of the proposed bypass.
2. Even if the money were allocated, wouldn't the bridge at Old Ivy Rd. need to be widened to allow the weaving of the traffic?
3. How did VDOT allow the contract to go to Skanksa, when they knew the design was faulty? Why did VDOT sign onto a contract for such a clearly defective design?
4. How much more will taxpayers have to pay for a southern terminus design that actually works?
5. Beyond the potential for a big cost increase, what negative environmental and health impacts will a new design have on the surrounding area?
6. Why is the current governor still pursuing this damaging bypass when we know we can improve traffic on Route 29 more effectively and less expensively without one, such as by building the overpasses at Hydraulic and Rio, build the parallel roads on Bermar and Hillsdale and going with "Places 29"?

A corrupt colossal waste of public money, time and effort better spent elsewhere. media general papers (ala daily progress) are usually and always , i.e., richmond & danville , with and proponents of such...why? because in some form they as the repub office crooks have been bought and paid for by the real crooks ???

From their corporate website:
Skanska is one of the world's leading project development and construction groups, employing 57,000 people in selected home markets in Europe, the U.S. and Latin America.
• 39 offices across the country, averaging 80 years in operation
• More than 9,400 U.S. employees working everyday
• More than 400 LEED® Accredited Professionals and more than 125 projects that have achieved or are seeking LEED certification
• 6th largest heavy contractor
• 6th largest general building contractor
• Excellent safety record - in 2011 the average industry contractor had more than five lost time accidents for every one experienced at Skanska USA
• Among the first U.S. construction firms to have all operations ISO 14001 certified

Our financial strength
• Revenue of $4.9 billion in 2011 representing 28 percent of Skanska’s global construction revenues (Just the US)

So how does anyone here say with a bit of credibility that Skanska doesn't know what the bypass needs to be done properly? Compared to this company what the heck does Salzman, Bacon, Southern Environmental Law or James Bacon even know about building this road?

With my comments, I don't mean to offend any of our state's hard-working bureaucrats, and there are many. However, even VDOT engineers have long said that the proposed bypass doesn't work (when this was first revived after the infamous "midnight vote", there are VDOT internal emails that ask "Why are we trying to revive this albatross?")....and it's likely they are pushing this through simply because they have political overlords. And if you see what happens to people like Jim Rich, who was forcibly removed from the Commonwealth Transportation Board because he "bucked" the system, spoke his mind and with his years of experience, declared that this road project is a shameful waste of taxpayer monies, the "soldiers" of VDOT may be feeling pressure from this administration to speak the "party line".

I always enjoy the required injection of "the kids" into these discussions (see paragraphs 7 and 12), with the requisite bow-down to the great, wise government ("the EPA requires...").

Some of you should sit on the Lynchburg bypass a few times and see the volume of traffic and the "exhaust" problems it creates create. As a previous poster alluded to, exhaust studies are designed for more denser traffic patterns, and that is a non-issue in this little town. More traffic sits idling at 250 and McIntire (right near Covenant) and at 250 and High (near, I think, Burnley-Moran); and STAB north is right along Rt. 250, so those poor rich kids are inhaling all that CO and poison from their evil, privileged, winners-of-life's-lottery (thanks to Dickie Gephardt for that one) parents who drop them off in gas-guzzling Navigators and Rovers.

So, please, when you try to argue for what might be a silly road (I agree a bypass should be taking folks from near the Airport and dropping them off just south of I-64), please don't get all Al Gore-ish on me and pull the environmental chum out of the bucket.

This road is not going to render any appreciable relief while costing way too much. It's that simple.

As George Carlin opined: "**ck the kids. Leave them hell alone and they'll be fine."

R.I.P.: Billy DeWolfe

Salzman has been ranting about the so-called bypass since it was revived in a sneaky midnight meeting a couple years ago. And well he should. It's a huge waste of money, and it does little to alleviate traffic problems in and around Charlottesville. Yet we stick our heads in the sand and say, "We have to do something!" Why don't we do something smart instead? Why don't we do something that doesn't cost so much? Why don't we do something that will actually improve traffic through Charlottesville? We already have a plan that has years of community input and community support, and it's called Places 29.

One question for our fine Republican supervisors who orchestrated the midnight coup that revived the so-called bypass. If this was such a great idea, why was it done in a midnight meeting after most folks had long since gone home to bed, with no advance notice, and no public input? It wasn't on the agenda, and the Republican supervisors changed the rules to suit their political needs. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing in the light of day. No more midnight meetings! No more bankrupting our transportation budget by greedy politicians! You should be ashamed of yourselves Ken Boyd, Duane Snow, and Rodney Thomas!

Despite the debates about environmental harm, Skanska competencies, grading issues, the bottom line is clear - this is an expensive road that we don't need. And we have much more pressing and important issues to spend taxpayer money on - why are we building blacktop, spending taxpayer money, and even potentially risking children's health for a road to nowhere?

We are not risking children's health by building this road, all roads use taxpayers dollars and given the engineering required this isn't an expensive road. Just repeating Dennis Rooker's talking points over and over doesn't make it true. Rooker said this road could cost 500 million maybe even 600 million- he was wrong. He has polluted this debate with so much misinformation that it is understandable why many people have the facts wrong.

Let's put it this way- if you want me to take the Southern Environmental law center seriously show me a road they thought was a GOOD idea. They along with Rooker and Charlottesville Tomorrow are just against any capital project that might have anything to to with growth. (expect schools- according to them you can't spend to much there)

@ECO You're attacking some of the specious arguments and may be quite right. (Although your own "all roads use taxpayer dollars" is textbook specious).

But can you refute the "It will not accomplish what it's supposed to do" argument? That's the most compelling argument against the bypass. Or better, can you offer convincing data that argue for this bypass? How can anyone in their right mind think this is going to alleviate traffic congestion and delays, any environmental, save the children, or that's where my garden gnomes are concerns notwithstanding.

Hey echo chamber orchestra. You say, "given the engineering required this isn't an expensive road." Well since all that engineering IS required, and apparently a lot MORE engineering still remains to be done, when exactly will it become expensive? Obviously $197M is just chump change to you, but after the first six or seven change orders double and triple the price tag, THEN can we say it's too expensive for just 6 or 7 miles of road that does nothing to alleviate traffic? You tell us when too much is too much for way too little, OK? Hey, I have an idea! Why don't YOU pay for the so-called bypass and let the rest of us use the money to solve the real traffic problems on route 29 and route 250.

@echo chamber orchestra,
Skanska had UVA under their thumb for a while. Sub-contractors in Charlottesville were breathing a sigh of relief when they finally left town. My company worked on the 6 story addition to the hospital that Skanska built. Our contracted work for that project was roughly half a million. They were the most difficult, arrogant and incompetent group of people I have run into in 30 years of business. They relied 100% on the sub-contractors. No one in their office could have built a decent shed in their back yard. Every sub-contractor there had a legal threat hanging over their heads from day one on the job.
When companies get to that size, their legal department is the cornerstone of their business, and they make a good portion of their profit by stealing it back from their sub-contractors.

@ ECO,
Just wanted to add that other than what I posted above, I agree with the rest of your posts.

No one is doubting Skanska's competency as a construction entity. Sure it lays concrete well and sure it understands how to get money from government. The issue is that taxpayers were lied to -- and continue to be lied to -- about the cost of this highway by Virginia's administration. VDOT engineers knew at the moment the Skanska Southern Terminus design was turned in that it was unworkable. Immediately, several other bidders grumbled and American Infrastructure filed a formal complaint that the design was totally non-functional as truckers had already weighed saying they couldn't make the curve and climb. Within six weeks VDOT was in meetings with UVA, with Skanska about how to make it workable. If there wasn't something going on, VDOT engineers would never have accepted that design.

Jim Rich believes that the attorney general should launch an investigation about the administration's lying to the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

A bigger question, though, is why the less expensive and more effective -- in both congestion relief and safety -- overpasses at Rio Road and Hydraulic road were abandoned in favor of a highway which costs three times as much?

I find some of the comments to this article disturbing.

'Liberalace' quotes George Carlin as saying "**ck the kids. Leave them alone and they'll be fine." Clearly the children are not fine. There has been a significant increase in many types of childhood illnesses, from asthma to autism. Certainly there are many causes for this. Shouldn't we be trying to eliminate those causes. I did some research on traffic pollution and health and easily found 19 studies published in the last five years that link traffic exhausts with increases in neurobehavioral ailments, asthma, autism, atopy, learning disabilities, pre-eclampsia, childhood cancer, and diabetes.

'Echo Chamber' states that "The Albemarle School Policy is to idle buses to keep the interiors warm while students wait to be loaded." Actually, the policy is to shut off the engines five minutes before the children are dismissed in the afternoon. The transportation director also told me that they are looking into alternative fuel vehicles that have cleaner emissions.

The least credible comment I have heard is that there are already schools that are located near highways in our area and the children are doing fine. I worked for years in one of those schools and I have seen the children coming to the school clinic for their inhalers.

@Dolemite They estimate that for travelers going into Charlottesville (North to South) in the AM, the bypass will cut between 4-5 minutes off of their travel time. In the afternoon these same motorists will save roughly 7 minutes from the time it would take them to make the same trip from Charlottesville ot the North using the existing Route 29 corridor.

Dolemite- It will bypass 16 traffic lights ( with the new Stonefield lights I think that's right) . I can't see how that's not a good thing for non local traffic. If you get got in just 1 light that will add about a minute. Do you think you can at any time of the working day hit all 16 in a row green? That's not remotely likely. It defies logic that you or anyone thinks the new road won't save time, increase the rate of travel on the new bypass, and won't help local and pass though traffic. If you live in Western Albemarle and are going to Greene or parts north you will save time and gas money taking this road instead of going though 16 lights and the traffic and congestion those lights generate.

I would like to get semi trucks off business 29 and get them on a route that saves gas and reduces pollution for them. The bypass will do that as well.
In terms of environmental causes take a moment and see what Skansa's ISO 14001 certification means.

Fiscal Joe the engineering is related to design build- you should look up what that means. It will not involve a bunch of change orders because they get to engineer it (according to best practices) with their bid in mind. Putting a road over a rolling topography is more costly than a flat road- are you really arguing that's not true? It will relieve some traffic if I'm coming to NoVa and going to the Boar's Head I will happily use this road and that will take that trip out of local traffic. That similar scenario will be repeated thousands of time each day. To say another road won't help traffic is does crazy and unprovable. Will this road eliminate traffic-no. Will it make it better- absolutely. I am paying for part of the bypass and so are you. the only difference I'm doing so gladly. I think it's money well spent

John Cruickshank you post lacks one crucial point- that this bypass will generate enough concentration of micro diesel particles at the proposed traffic volumes and speeds to constitute a elevated and significant risk to students. No study has been done on to approximate traffic flow at this level. All studies I've seen are about traffic that is urban and probably 20 times what the bypass might generate. This area is much better than an urban area at mitigating the exhaust- tree cover and hills reduce concentrations. Is too much exhaust from trucks bad for kids-sure. What you or anyone has proven is that this will be too much.

As to Albemarle exhaust are you truly stating that in 5 minutes all harmful exhaust are gone at what is point blank exposure? If so how can you then complain about a truck passing though at 45 MPH many 100 of yards away will have ANY impact. You can't have it both ways. Idling produces much more exhaust then a semi at speed. You're just using tangentially studies that you have neglect to properly apply to this situation to make your point

@Echo A roadway that follows the topography of the land actually is cheaper to build than a flat one that cuts through the land because it will require less material to be moved to construct the alignment. There are many factors that go into the cost of the roadway, but typically the less excavation that you have to accomplish the better.

Wow, Randy! Your essay on the 29 Cut Thru must really be cutting close to the bone for all the howling and catterwalling. I wonder if the anonymous writers deposit their checks for preparing these letters under the same names they publish letters under.

@Fiscal Joe "why was it done in a midnight meeting after most folks had long since gone home to bed, with no advance notice, and no public input?"

You mean like the Affordable Health Care Act was passed? I couldn't agree more.

I'm sorry MrBypass, but you say "They" and the "they" is not identified.

VDOT said a decade ago that the "flyover" design, the most expensive, would save 66 seconds in the 10 hours from Lynchburg to NYC, and a few months ago CATCO did an analysis which found, that since stoplights on 29N had been synchronized, the time savings was 51 seconds. Former Virginia Business Editor Jim Bacon drove the distance a half dozen times to conclude the flyover design might save 2 minutes.

How did you determine the minutes (4/5 or 7) that would be saved by building the bypass? Who is "they"?

Considering the 4 minutes that your "they" gave you, however, please do the math and realize that we're talking taxpayers borrowing $75 million per minute saved.

Furthermore, Mr. Bypass, the 2 new designs for the Southern Terminus require MOVING U.S. 250 and DROPPING the highway level about 15 feet, which is a great deal of excavation regardless of how much rock must be blasted amidst the dirt. Has a cost analysis been completed for this excavation project? If so, when will the public be told the amount?

The Daily Progress editorial page has provided the ONLY estimate of making the Southern Terminus functional and there were "chuckles" that the cost would be $56 million--or almost the cost of saving a minute in travel time.

Jim Bacon self timed drive is what the British would call "bullocks". There is no way even properly timed lights will get you though all 16 lights only 2 minutes slower than the proposed bypass. Bacon's article is fount of unproven speculation that if peer review were used it would still be waiting for publication.

Salz- since Rooker, you and most who oppose the bypass have been wildly wrong on previous cost estimates why should anyone view your estimate as anything but a wild hair guess. No one opposed to the bypass thought the bids would come in anywhere near the VDOT estimates- they were proven wrong. Why should anyone find your cost scare tactics credible next to one of the world's leading construction firms who put their money where their mouths is. You seem to be little more armchair engineers with little to lose but the argument.

Places 29 is not the answer either and there exist no political will to build a series of overpasses on 29- this bypass is the only that any chance of being built for decades. What you and other are truly asking for is that nothing be done and you hope that keeps growth down.

Here are some very basic, down to earth reasons why Places 29 WILL work....imagine, seeing where the troubled spots are and fixing them. Now that is a GREAT idea!

Please look at this slide set and make your own decisions:

Fixing them? Its not waving a magic wand and saying this is what the planners want is the solution. All roads are now about politics. Politics are about the possible. Which of these solutions are political possible? That means you have to have the EPA approval, the politicians to support them and the money from the state to make it happen.

Currently only the 29 bypass as funded and proposed meets that criteria

Mr. Daily 29 Driver: The bids did come in near projections. It's just that the low-Skanska-bid was baited so that it could be switched with these higher amounts later. There was a $78 million difference between low and high bids, or 60 percent of the entire low bid when bids were opened in June 2012. The other contractors grumbled and one, American Infrastructure, filed a formal complaint that the Skanska bid did not meet project requirements.

If you're an honest taxpayer and not a shill for somebody passing money under the table, you'd be incensed about this bait and switch.

Something similar to the bait and switch is happening, meanwhile, on the Northern Terminus of this project. VDOT is finding that it is non-functional as well.

Jim Bacon's Return on Investment analysis where he found $8 million in public benefits is the ONLY return on investment (ROI) analysis that has been done on this $300 million project. The closest thing to a VDOT ROI was 2009's $1.5 million 29N corridor study which found “the Western Bypass is no longer an effective option to serve corridor-wide trips."

Mr. Bacon is a former editor of Virginia Business and a very fiscally conservative individual. He would not conclude that the bypass is "The Road to Wealth Destruction" -- as he did -- unless the fiscal/economic data indicated it.

I would applaud an up-to-date return on investment study by Virginia, or some qualified consultant. Would you? And would other proponents? If this highway is such a good deal for taxpayers, why aren't proponents DEMANDING an ROI?


Mr. Daily 29 Driver: The bids did come in near projections. It's just that the low-Skanska-bid was baited so that it could be switched with these higher amounts later. There was a $78 million difference between low and high bids, or 60 percent of the entire low bid. The other contractors grumbled and one, American Infrastructure, filed a formal complaint that the Skanska bid did not meet project requirements.

If you're an honest taxpayer and not a shill for somebody passing money under the table, you'd be incensed about this bait and switch.

Something similar to the bait and switch is happening, meanwhile, on the Northern Terminus of this project. VDOT is finding that it is non-functional as well.

Jim Bacon's Return on Investment analysis where he found $8 million in public benefits is the ONLY return on investment (ROI) analysis that has been done on this $300 million project. The closest thing to a VDOT ROI was 2009's $1.5 million 29N corridor study which found “the Western Bypass is no longer an effective option to serve corridor-wide trips."

Mr. Bacon is a former editor of Virginia Business and a very fiscally conservative individual. He would not conclude that the bypass is "The Road to Wealth Destruction" -- as he did -- unless the fiscal/economic data indicated it.

I would applaud an up-to-date return on investment study by Virginia, or some qualified consultant. Would you? And would other proponents? If this highway is such a good deal for taxpayers, why aren't proponents DEMANDING an ROI?

Thanks for admitting that your sides was wildly wrong cost figures were decimated by actual construction bids by Skansa. Seriously why should I believe you or Rooker on construction cost-ever?

You accuse Skansa of bait and switch? Evidence please, your assertion is baseless till then. Your assertions about the bidding process are also not back up by fact. Skansa is a good firm and your "they didn't play fair" falls hollow and again unproven. They are world class at constructing roads, you however are just a guy with a blog.

Bacon bona fide's are well know, his mathematical equations in untested areas and not base-lined to anything are unproven theories that would ill suit taxpayers as a basis of making a major infrastructure decisions like the bypass. He doesn't compare his ROI to ANY other road. Tell me it's otherwise because I can't find where his ROI math has any transferable commonality with any other road project. Bacon's former "good offices" do not give him blanket trust on this issue.

As to be not being an honest taxpayer, if you can get me paid for showing up unapplicable science and baseless assertions let me know how, I will gladly give you a finder's fee.

I don't see the bait and switch either.

RS, unless I'm missing something, you give Skanska's initial and winning bid of $136 million, but you don't say how much it will cost after the southern terminus is redesigned. So far we may have a bait, but not much of a switch. I assume it must be normal, and would expect it to be explicitly permitted under a contract, for "minor" changes to be made to a design even after the bid has been accepted.

How much COULD Skanska in tease the project's total cost? Is there a ceiling beyond which they can't go? If the next lowest bid was $78 million higher than Skanskas initial $136 million than I guess they can go as high as about $210 million and still be the lowest bid, no?

Construction bidding practices and children's health aside - even if Mr. Bacon's ROI is grotesquely low, the road is still a huge waste of money. Why should the rest of the county be deprived of future road funds because - wait, why is this bypass being built?

Thank you for refusing to lie down and accept the construction of this wasteful use of taxpayer money. We don't need a bypass, we need the issues on 29 taken care of, like they were supposed to be in the first place. Whoever the people are who are making out good on this bypass, it sure isn't the people of central Virginia.

I wonder why planners aren't thinking out of the box, in terms of long-term sustainability rather than relatively short-term traffic crunch? What hits me every time I read about these things (especially while watching McIntire Park be sliced in two) is...isn't all this mostly to enable a continuing status quo of 1-driver/1-vehicle insanity that's ultimately going to destroy our quality of life? It's like, one response to "bad traffic" is "more roads." Another is: "create less traffic." So I wonder why we aren't thinking instead terms of constant fleets of comfortable, charming (it helps if they're bright and fun looking) electric-powered JITNEYS (small buses) going up and down the most congested areas. That way, over time, eventually fewer people way up 29N would think that to getting downtown by fighting traffic and parking a good idea. Cultural behavior changes when it's changed (made appealing), and it seems to me that serious commitment to radically efficient/convenient public transportation makes way more sense than all this blasting, pollution, and land destruction to serve the same-old driving patterns.

I work in Charlottesville because that's where the money is. I sometimes shop there because money attracts cool stuff. But I wouldn't live among you nutjobs for anything. Charlottesville is like Virginia's largest gated community. You just don't realize from which side the gate is locked.

Just build the damned road and let the rest of us go around you narcissistic ninnys.

Oh, and also, I cannot believe that this guy is such a thin skinned pussy that he has to post snarky comebacks in his own comments section.

Mr. Salzman is obviously well aware of the facts about the huge expenditure versus the tiny return of the proposed 29 Western Bypass. As a Commonwealth taxpayer and a lifelong resident of the Charlottesville area with UVA business and urban planning degrees, I wanted to emphasize some major issues with this project.

The design build process under which this project was suddenly revived displays either 1) the mismanagement of financial resources at best or 2) deception/corruption at worst. Either conclusion is deeply disturbing for those of us who are funding this venture, which was labeled one of the nation’s worst transportation projects even before its design was altered to make it a functional failure as currently proposed.

The administration of our Commonwealth has now put forward a 29 bypass project which includes a new Southern Terminus design that costs less than the grade separated full interchange that was originally part of the project. My years of experience in civil engineering, transportation planning and real estate development allow me to safely say that the new southern terminus design, which includes 11% road grades and stop lights to control traffic movements, simply will not function as a “bypass” to move traffic in a northern direction. As currently presented in the selected technical proposal, it will not function as a “bypass,” which is the project’s stated purpose. To function as a “bypass,” it must include grade separated interchanges, overpasses, etc. that were part of the original design that will be more costly and destructive to the adjacent schools and neighborhoods.

The Northern Terminus design put forward by the administration is similarly dysfunctional as currently proposed. Skanska has submitted an additional design fee of $580,000 simply to create a safe and functional intersection at Ashwood Boulevard at Forest Lakes South that was left out of the approved technical proposal. The Northern Terminus also has serious safety issues that must be corrected and will lead to additional design and construction costs.

This leads to the conclusion that either the administration in Richmond did not understand that they had proposed a new design that did not work (in which case I have to conclude administrative incompetence) or they intentionally put forward a design that had a lower cost to gain Commonwealth Transportation Board approval with the idea that they would later change the southern and northern terminus designs at the additional cost of tens of millions of dollars to Virginia and U.S. taxpayers (in which case I have to conclude “bait and switch” deception). I simply didn’t think that is how we made investments for the benefit of the commonwealth of all Virginians. Either way, it is not how I want my money to be spent.

At the end of the day, U.S. Route 29 in Virginia is not a limited access highway and will never be one. The “Western Bypass” as currently proposed and is only a $244.6M (VDOT’s stated cost) dysfunctional local street that simply leads to another unending stream of traffic lights in Hollymead and beyond. (Has anyone been through Gainesville lately?) I think there are very good reasons that Taxpayers for Common Sense call this highway project one of the worst eight in the entire nation.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18

Keith A. Crawford, AICP, LEED AP