Yes, I believe that we can count on Virgil [Goode].
I own a small service business in Lynchburg [Virginia] that keeps 8 people on the road across the state and I feel that I have a pretty good handle on the attitudes of the people in the Fifth District. I also believe that I have a keen understanding of the varying economies in this district. Because of this, I have a difficult time believing that Ms. Richards is the one who should be counted on to best represent the Fifth.
I have heard nothing of substance in regards to economic growth in my area and I have yet to hear Ms. Richards address the US 29 corridor outside the protective enclave of the Charlottesville political establishment.
I would love to hear your response.
Tom Rogers (electronic mail, October 10, 2002)
Editor's Note: When Tom Rogers says, "Yes, I believe we can count on Virgil", he is referring to Virgil Goode's recent ad on Channel 29.
Mr. Roger's statement "I have yet to hear Ms. Richards address the US 29 corridor" might refer to Meredith Richard's speaking engagements and/or political and economic issues affecting the US 29 corridor - in which case, Ms. Richards has been up and down the road daily throughout the 5th District making her case known.
For a quick read on the press coverage of the race, see http://news.google.com/ and type in "Richards Goode."
It is also just possible that Mr. Rogers is referring to Meredith Richards' position on the 29 bypass:
"Two state legislators from Lynchburg are urging Gov. Mark R. Warner to use his influence to keep alive the proposed U.S. 29 western bypass around Charlottesville.
If a Charlottesville-area transportation planning group knocks out the bypass, then every road project in the area should be examined by the state to see what else "might be harmful to other communities," wrote Sen. Stephen D. Newman and Del. L. Preston Bryant Jr.
A Charlottesville legislator said his colleagues from Lynchburg appear to be threatening to "paddle" the Charlottesville area if it doesn't keep the bypass alive.
Newman and Bryant, both Lynchburg Republicans, asked Warner in a letter Thursday to "employ all the tools available to you to ensure that the Charlottesville bypass proceeds."
They said they are concerned that the Charlottesville area's Metropolitan Planning Organization "is moving toward eliminating the project from its six-year Transportation Improvement Plan."
The Lynchburg legislators said communities north and south of Charlottesville depend on U.S. 29, and view completion of the proposed bypass to be in the best interest of the state and its transportation needs.
"Removing the Charlottesville bypass from the six-year plan would be devastating," the pair wrote Warner. "It would be contrary to all that has been achieved within the U.S. Route 29 corridor over the last decade."
In that period, the state has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on U.S. 29 bypasses near Lynchburg and Danville while the proposed Charlottesville bypass has received nearly $34 million for preliminary engineering designs and right-of-way purchases.
The proposed six-mile bypass, which could cost an estimated $30 million per mile to build, is on hold, stuck in what is termed "the development process" with only about $6 million currently allocated in the next six-year plan to finish planning and right-of-way acquisition.
"There has been no commitment to construct it" and no money allocated for construction, said Pierce Homer, deputy secretary of transportation.
Bryant said the governor apparently wants to keep options open for the proposed road's future, "and there is no money to build it."
The letter that he and Newman sent hints at retaliation against the Charlottesville area's other transportation projects if the MPO acts to delete the $6 million remaining for the bypass and remove the project from the six-year plan.
The lawmakers asked Warner to direct the secretary of transportation and the Commonwealth Transportation Board "to look very closely at every single item in the Charlottesville MPO's Transportation Improvement Plan, conducting an in-depth review of each item."
"We realize that by asking you to undertake this review, it could greatly delay many of the MPO's other projects, including the funding of all those other projects," Bryant and Newman said in the letter.
Del. Mitchell Van Yahres, D-Charlottesville, said he is surprised the GOP pair from Lynchburg uses such threatening language.
'"You be good up there or we're going to paddle you' - that's pretty much what they're saying," Van Yahres said.
Van Yahres said he is not sure whether the legislators' letter might have any impact on the 5th District congressional race between Democrat Meredith Richards, Charlottesville's vice mayor, and Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr., R-Rocky Mount.
Richards, like Van Yahres, believes the current six-mile proposed bypass route is so short as to be obsolete before it can be built.
Van Yahres said he does not know how Richards' opposition to the route of the bypass, if not the idea of a bypass, might be perceived in the Danville and suburban Lynchburg areas of the 5th District that very much want a Charlottesville bypass.
Richards, one of five votes on the MPO, told officials at the organization's Sept. 9 meeting that she is in favor of nixing the bypass.
"I don't think anyone on council has given me a good rationale for why we should build this road," she said at the meeting. The MPO deferred action then to wait for the Charlottesville City Council's decision on whether to remove the road from the plan, a choice the council could make Monday night.
Richards declined comment on the Bryant-Newman letter through a spokesman Thursday. "Meredith Richards is clearly on the record as opposing this routing for the bypass," said campaign spokesman Dave Sagarin.
Newman said he and Bryant plus the chambers of commerce for the Danville, Lynchburg and Charlottesville areas all want the proposed bypass to be considered from a statewide perspective and kept alive.
If the bypass is killed, a decade's work would be lost, Newman said. If it is kept alive in the six-year plan, "it will be in the pipeline, at least, for consideration when we come out of the budget problems that we're in."
Bryant said money for construction is "a long time away," but the bypass and U.S. 29 are much more than local roads for the region to the south, which is heavily dependent on manufacturing and needs to have its goods moving as swiftly as possible.
The letter was timed to help rally bypass support up and down U.S. 29
prior to Monday night's council vote on the project and "to put whatever
pressure we might be able to exert on anybody who will listen," Bryant
said. " (Bob Gibson, The Daily Progress, October 11, 2002)