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City Council approves $15.3M for Belmont Bridge project

Charlottesville has finally given its blessing to a large portion of funding for the longstanding Belmont Bridge replacement project.

The City Council unanimously signed off on a $15.3 million allocation for the project during its virtual meeting Monday.

The bridge, which was built in 1961, spans the Buckingham Branch Railroad line and carries about 14,000 vehicle trips a day, according to Virginia Department of Transportation estimates.

The city decided to replace the bridge in 2003 in a project estimated to cost $31 million.

Overall, the city will spend $13 million on the bridge. The project will be supported by $14.8 million in state funding and $3.2 million in federal money.

The $15.3 million approved Monday is composed of $12.1 million in state funding and $3.2 million in federal money.

The project has languished in a series of snags for about six years.

Initial designs were met with public opposition, and the original consultants in charge of the process, MMM Design, went out of business in 2014.

In 2017, Kimley-Horn took over the project and the City Council approved a design in October of that year.

The city expects construction to start next year and finish by 2023.

For more information on the project, visit belmontbridge.org.

The funding allocation was included on the council’s consent agenda.

Relief funding

Also as part of its consent agenda, the council approved allocations for $246,699 in federal coronavirus relief funds.

The city will provide $98,679 to the Community Investment Collaborative. According to a staff report, the money will be used for 24 grants that provide technical support to help businesses cover expenses and adapt to the changing economic environment caused by the pandemic.

The Thomas Jefferson Health District is slated to receive $49,661 for outreach, testing and linking to care related to the virus.

The Thomas Jefferson Area Coalition for the Homeless will receive $49,017 to provide rental and utility assistance to 25 households making less than 30% of the area median income.

The final $49,339 will be used to cover administration and planning related to the selected projects.

The council also approved $64,229 for the registrar’s office to cover extra costs associated with printing and mailing ballots for the November election.

Absentee voting

The council also voted to designate CitySpace as the in-person absentee voter precinct to allow better social distancing measures for the November election.

In-person absentee voting typically occurs at City Hall. The registrar’s office still will be available for those needing assistance casting a ballot.

The ordinance, which is temporary, expires Nov. 10. Usually, the ordinance requires two readings, but officials have requested that the second hearing be waived.

The council also gave final approval to $95,000 of pass-through state funding for the school division to pay for a Safe Routes to School coordinator.

Water line easement

In other business, the council held a public hearing and conducted a first reading for water line easements for the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority at the Ragged Mountain Reservoir.

The line would run from the South Rivanna Reservoir to the Ragged Mountain Reservoir. It would replace the existing Sugar Hollow Pipeline and increase raw water transfers. Construction is expected to occur between 2027 and 2040 at an estimated cost of $80 million.

During the public hearing, former Councilor Dede Smith raised concerns about the future cost of the pipeline. Neil Williamson, president of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local business advocacy group, spoke in favor of the proposal.

Jake Gold asked how much the pipeline would impact utility bills. Utilities Director Lauren Hildebrand said the city would be responsible for roughly 15% of the costs.

In June, the authority said that the city and Albemarle County’s urban areas likely will need to boost their water supply capacity before 2060.

The line is part of the area’s long-term water supply plan and would raise the water level at Ragged Mountain by 12 feet.

The easements require a second reading, which is expected to happen at the council’s Sept. 8 meeting.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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