Friday, February 22, 2008

Charlottesville Budget Busting

There is a line item in the Charlottesville Budget that shows $40,000 for the Meadow Creek Parkway as a 2-percent match for state or federal funds. It is confusing in that the Meadow Creek Parkway is a project in Albemarle County. McIntire Road Extended or the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road are related road projects in the city that it likely should refer to. In itself, this isn't a budget buster, but at the February 19, 2008 City Council Meeting, council approved spending up to $1 million to match dollar for dollar available VDOT funds for road project use. Some of this money is likely to provide more funding above the already $29 million being spent on the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road project. The just approved matching money is thus a 100-percent match. So, an additional $2 million dollars for the interchange could cost the city $1 million. This is significantly more than the line item in the budget that provides (using the 2-percent match) just over $2 million for a cost to the city of $40,000.

How much are we in the city willing to spend to keep the Meadow Creek Parkway or McIntire Road Extended or the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road alive? Who is likely to benefit from these very expensive projects that seem to offer little improvement in our transportation network but will add significantly to traffic congestion in already congested parts of the city, add significantly to pollution of our air and water resources, and spend scarce city dollars that could be (in my opinion at least) in meeting pressing needs in our community relating to transit, affordable housing, education, safety, social services, etc.

As the estimated costs of these large road projects continue to grow, I wonder how many more of our budget dollars will be put into pavement that will provide value much less than if these dollars were programmed elsewhere in our budget. Sometimes you get what you pay for, sometimes not.

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