The Western Bypass for U.S. 29 was envisioned as a way to help move intercity traffic past 14 traffic lights in Charlottesville.
file photo by Tom Daly
To the delight of highway supporters, the bids for the
controversial Charlottesville Western Bypass have come in below
budget– with the apparent low bid of $136 million. However, that
was just the first spin on the project from its top backer, Neil
Williamson, head of a business group called the Free Enterprise
If the low bid stands well below the $197 million budgeted last
July by Commonwealth Transportation Board, there's a good reason.
It doesn't include much of the design and land-acquisition
In fact, the low bid of $136 million is $18 million over what
the state budgeted for the actual construction: $118 million. That
means, the project– if officials decide to go forward on it– is
over-budget before the first shovel hits the ground, at least to
opponents of the Bypass like Supervisor Dennis Rooker, Southern
Environmental Law, and Piedmont Environmental Council.
"Clearly the bid is substantially over the Commonwealth
Transportation Board allocation," says Rooker, who puts the overage
at least at $20 million. And he notes that the bid does not include
landscaping, nor does it have soundwalls to protect schools and
neighborhoods. Nor has VDOT acquired all the rights-of way.
Rooker has an even bigger problem with the "design-build"
project, in which the construction companies design the road based
on VDOT specs. The highest bid came in at $214 million– $80 million
more than the lowest bid. "That seems to me...