Was That a Wooden Stake at Last?
We trust this is the last time the people of Albemarle will have to repudiate the so-called Western Bypass.
Its defeat was urgently necessary in the name of honorable government and because it flatly failed to achieve its purpose.
The horror with which local voters beheld the infamous “midnight vote” that saw the bypass unexpectedly pulled out of its grave and made to march around like a zombie was clear in their rejection of every candidate in November’s election who spoke up for it. The current board was elected to rid us of the appalling prospect of spending hundreds of million of dollars—in an open-ended contract—for a what amounted to a service road to parallel a congested section of Rt. 29.
Trust in government—or perhaps in anything—is fragile, and once betrayed it takes years of virtuous living to restore. Had the bypass survived the election, we could have expected conspiratorial intrigue and likely corruption as our standards for local government action. Albemarle, true to its traditions, refused to become that sort of place.
In the hour before the public hearing began, local officials received a letter from federal highway authorities saying they would not consent to pay a share of the road’s cost. Someone must have asked where the emperor’s clothes were. What is the point of a bypass that doesn’t bypass? As one speaker at the hearing put it, it might have been a bypass if it was built in 1949. Any bypass plan that does not extend north of Ruckersville is nonsense, and that requirement will make any future plan dauntingly expensive.
Crozet actually had more at stake in the outcome. Given the way that highway improvement funds are distributed, had the bypass gone forward, Albemarle would have consumed its share of funds for another 40 years on a single stupid six-mile stretch. Now other needed roads and bridges can get back in scrum for funding.
In the early stages of planning Crozet’s future, it was imagined that developers, in exchange for rezonings to higher densities, could be made to pay for a bridge over Lickinghole Creek that would connect Cory Farm to Westhall and create a north-south artery for eastern Crozet. Developers were also expected to pay for a crossing of the railroad tracks in the vicinity of Music Today that would tie that artery, “eastern avenue” into Rt. 240.
That solution is now fantasy. Ten years ago, the bridge cost was estimated to be between $9 and $11 million. Who dares to guess at it now? Since it is highly unlikely CSX railroad will consent to a grade-level crossing at Rt. 240, a huge liability cost for them, a crossing will probably involve a trestle and underpass or a bridge high enough to allow double-stacked shipping containers to pass underneath it. We now know what the density of development in eastern Crozet will be and it won’t shoulder those expenses. These will ultimately have to be publicly funded projects and the demise of the bypass means that at least there should be some public funds to compete for.