Well, there's no longer any question whose side Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell is on when it comes to the controversial Western Bypass in Charlottesville. Whether the locals favor this project or not, the 6.2 mile, $300 million bypass, just north of the University of Virginia, clearly has some friends in high places.
Sean Tubbs at Charlottesville Tomorrow reports today that McDonnell has booted James Rich from the Commonwealth Transportation Board, a powerful decision-making body. Why? Rich had the audacity to vote against the controversial bypass and call for redirecting the money:
Rich has consistently been the lone vote on the [Commonwealth Transportation Board] against the U.S. 29 Western Bypass. In December, he introduced a resolution to reallocate the $135 million the body allocated to the project in July 2011.
But Rich won't be a dissenting voice with power anymore, Tubbs reports:
“I am no longer on the Commonwealth Transportation Board,” said James Rich, who was appointed by Governor Bob McDonnell in July 2010 to represent VDOT’s Culpeper District on the body that establishes transportation policy in Virginia.
According to state code, members of the CTB are “removable from office during their respective terms by the Governor at his pleasure.”
Rich said he will continue to oppose the bypass and is glad he had the chance to do so as an appointed official.
“If they think I was going to just sit there as a potted plant, they were wrong,” Rich said. “As long as I was on the board, I was going to do what was right because that’s the responsibility we have to the taxpayers.”
It seems like every time we write about this project the price has gone up by $50 million. In July, 2011, the price was $197 million. One year later, it was $245 million.
All this for a project that certainly has no strong local mandate. Two-thirds of public comments about the bypass were against it -- and some local residents complained of being "blackballed" for expressing dissent. This fall, a consultant hired by project opponents found major flaws in the data regional transportation authorities used to justify the bypass.
Meanwhile, McDonnell, you will recall, grabbed headlines recently for proposing to address the state's transportation budget mess by increasing the sales tax -- effectively shifting the burden of paying for road infrastructure to everyone except drivers. Perhaps if there were fewer $300 million bypasses on the state's docket...
Elsewhere on the Network today: Systemic Failure wonders why notorious drunken/reckless driver Lindsay Lohan still has a license. Boston Streets outlines a series of forward-looking proposals put forward by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick aimed at shoring up the state's transportation accounts. And Forward Lookout anticipates tone deaf remarks on transportation by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker in his upcoming state of the state address.