Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Route 250 Bypass Interchange at Route 250 designs sent back to the drawing board

Charlottesville City Council heard about three hours of public comment concerning current proposed designs for an interchange at the intersection of Route 250 Bypass and McIntire Road. The vast majority of commenters opposed approval of the designs recommended by a city council appointed project steering committee. Several of the steering committee members commented and asked council to approve their recommendation.

Opponents pointed out their assessments that the designs were too large, had too much impact on McIntire Park itself and on other nearby properties eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, didn't solve traffic needs, did not adequately provide pedestrian access to the park, and a host of other concerns. Charlottesville Tomorrow posted a comprehensive summary of the interchange discussion in a blog entitled "Council defers decision on Meadowcreek Parkway Interchange" that is well worth reading. I also expect that the video of the council meeting will be broadcast on the city cable TV-10 channel over the next few weeks where you can see all the comments and discussion.

This deferral of action is another twist in the ever twisting events surrounding what is often called the Meadowcreek Parkway. As this project changed over time it evolved into three independent projects: Meadow Creek Parkway (from Melbourne Road to Rio Road in Albemarle County - a state funded secondary road system project); McIntire Road Extended (from Route 250 Bypass to Melbourne Road - a state funded urban system road project) ; and Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road (a federally funded interchange project being administered by the City of Charlottesville). I believe these three projects are so interdependent that it makes no logical sense to develop and design each one separately. They should be one project. Of course, as one project that would use federal funding for construction the entire project would have to undergo environmental review where several federal statutes would need to be followed. I think this would be the best possible path for considering if a parkway with or without an interchange should be built. One project on one time schedule with one study team should break the ever confusing boundary and funding issues that have plagued the project development over the years.

I applaud all of our city councilors for deciding to investigate this interchange further. I urge council (as I did in my comment at the public hearing on Monday night) to combine the interchange and the McIntire Road Extended projects so that better and more environmentally sensitive solutions to our transportation needs can be considered. Only then can some truly new ideas enter the conversation. Too much money has been spent for too little value on these inappropriately segmented project studies.

One citizen suggested solution is to combine improvement of the McIntire Road/ Route 250 Bypass intersection and expand transit options in our community. This forward thinking and promising solution can't even be considered in the current multi-project environment of convoluted project assumptions. It is clearly time for a refocussing of these independent efforts. Little is to be lost and so much to be gained. I believe that city council, the city school board, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors, VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration all need to put their minds and efforts toward a unified goal. Only then can this project get analysed and finalized - whether to build or not build should become a clear and defensible decision when addressed as a unit.

Photo is from Charlottesville Tomorrow weblog.

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