Sunday, January 25, 2009

To spend or not to spend.

A fairly large bundle of capital improvement money - $10,353,701 to be exact - is the subject of a public hearing at the February 2, 2009 Charlottesville City Council Meeting. If you are concerned about spending millions of our transportation dollars in Charlottesville on the Hillsdale Drive Extended ($2,345,667) and the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road ($8,008,034). The Charlottesville Planning Commission voted to drop the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road funding from this year's Capital Improvement Program (CIP) and it will be interesting to see how (if) the Planning Commission's position is received by city council.

The $8 million for the interchange is but a small portion of the approximately $30 million project. And the interchange only a portion of the so-called Meadow Creek Parkway project that would connect Route 250 Bypass to Rio Road through McIntire Park and some magnificent natural property just north of Melbourne Road in Albemarle County. It appears that the majority of the Charlottesville Planning Commission believes that whatever the benefits of this proposed project are - they are not worth the many millions of scarce capital improvement dollars required. I have requested an accounting of anticipated benefits from this project to compare with the costs (including actual costs, impacts to parkland and historic properties, and increased congestion on nearby roadways). I believe that the anticipated benefits of this and the associated parkway projects don't provide sufficient benefits to justify these capital investments.

The decision appears to be more of a political decision than a transportation decision so it is not likely we will hear much discussion about the transportation benefits and the environmental and other costs of the project at the council meeting unless citizens bring these issues to council's attention during the public hearing. So, if you have an opinion about throwing another $8 million of public funds into this project as compared to reprogramming those funds for other transportation projects, February 2 is a great opportunity for you to share your opinion and present alternatives to council. The hearing announcement as it appeared in Sunday's Daily Progress is as follows:

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Charlottesville City Council will hold a public hearing on Monday, February 2, 2009, at 7:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers at City Hall, 605 East Main Street, Charlottesville, Virginia to consider an amendment to the City's FY 2009Budget. The proposed budget amendment will increase the Capital Improvements Program budget by $10,353,701 to support the following projects:

Hillsdale Drive Extended - $2,345,667
Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road - $8,008,034

State and Federal Grants totaling $10,353,701 are allocated to the City and funds will be received as they are expended (federal) or quarterly (state). The City's share of the costs of the projects are funded throught the Capital Improvements Program.

A copy of the full text of the proposed appropriation is on file with the Clerk of Council. This notice is advertised pursuant to Virginia Code Sec. 15.2-2507.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Inauguration Music Choices

I am amused at the conversation on TV, radio, newspapers, and elsewhere about the live music/ recorded music issue at the Jan. 20th Inaugural event. For an event in January in Washington D.C. I would think cold weather would be likely. Choosing a musical ensemble with cold weather sensitive instruments as part of the program seems not to be such a great idea. Yes, it is great to have the great instrumentalist of our day participate in the event, but why not select instrumentalists that perform on instruments that are not so temperature sensitive - or go with vocalists?

Perhaps this would have been a great opportunity for the melodeon - an instrument I play - to get some national attention (although lots of other choices exist). I have managed to play many times in extreme cold and freezing rain for First Night Virginia events and on the Swan Tavern Morris Men's winter solstice dance-out on the third Saturday of December on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall. I guess I have played melodeon in temperatures below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

I was sorry I didn't get a ticket to the inauguration to see the event live but enjoyed being part of the audience at the Paramount Theater to see it on a super-sized HDTV screen. When watching the musical number with Itzhak Perlman (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Gabriela Montero (piano) and Anthony McGill (clarinet) I thought the motions of the musicians and the music were out of sync but didn't realize that the music was a taped broadcast - not the live feed. Perhaps anticipating a balmy January day in Washington D.C. was an extension of the message of Hope.

In the current world of extensive conversation about decisions made that are inappropriate to the prevailing circumstances on the economy, security, and the like, why not choose musical ensembles appropriate to the weather. Perhaps I am not the musician for the next inaugural, but I can play my melodeon with mittens on in the freezing rain if someone holds an umbrella over me and my instrument.

Monday, January 5, 2009

John W. Warner Parkway? Why blame Sen. Warner for this.

Senator John W. Warner wisely declined to have his name associated with what is generally known as the Meadow Creek Parkway while he was Senator, and I certainly recommend that he decline to have his name linked to this project now that he has retired from the Senate.

If this road is constructed as the John W. Warner Parkway, drivers on this facility will link Senator Warner to the long delays they will surely endure attempting to use this facility as a quick way to get from Northern Albemarle County to Downtown Charlottesville. Without a previously required Eastern Connector and current congestion on Route 250 Bypass at Free Bridge and low capacity on existing McIntire Road it is difficult for me to see how this road can be other than a highly congested facility. I would love to see an engineering demonstration of how this facility will be able to carry at an acceptable level of service the 20,000 or more vehicles per day anticipated to use the parkway - a two-lane facility with traffic signals controlling traffic flow other than at the proposed interchange at Route 250 Bypass. Adding these additional vehicles to the current traffic on Route 250 Bypass and McIntire Road with no forseeable traffic improvements to mitigate the increased demand is an invitation to congestion.

If I were Sen. Warner, I would decline any name connection. What will the nickname for this facility become. Being from Long Island in New York, I remember the Long Island Expressway as the Long Island Distressway - might this be the model for the John W. Warner Distressway or the John W. Warner Congestway - or worse.

While commuters, shoppers, soccer moms, and others idle in place somewhere in what is now some of McIntire Park's most beautiful areas, I believe many of them will link the name Warner with the destruction of this parkland and loss of habitat currently supporting populations of deer, beaver, fox, and other life not generally found in Charlottesville.

Senator Warner did facilitate the $27 million federal earmark for construction of the "Meadow Creek Parkway Interchange" in the most recent major transportation legislation - SAFETEA-LU. But, as I recall, a group of local project supporters visited Sen. Warner and provided him material showing only how this was our areas primary project of interest and that there was no opposition to this project. Perhaps Sen. Warner did inquire about the potential downside of this project including impacts on parkland, historic properties, and the environment in general and still supported the project. I wonder. Opposition did and continues to exist. Impacts on environmental, historic, and recreational resources are still being evaluated, promises for "necessary" additional traffic carrying facilities (e.g. the Eastern Connector) will apparently not be honored. Sen. Warner's support for our region in meeting transportation challenges is commendable, but this project is not one I think will enhance the Warner legacy.

I am sure this facility will find a name for itself once its operational characteristics are known (if it ever actually gets constructed). I believe the real heros will be those who facilitate not building this road - and who recognize that these project funds would be better reprogrammed to transit and other non-roadway projects. I invite Mr. David Brown, Mr. Satyendra Huja, and Mr. Julian Taliaferro - the three Charlottesville City Councilors currently supporting this project to become community heros and join with Mayor Dave Norris and Ms. Holly Edwards in opposition to building this road through McIntire Park. Hero opportunities are few and far between, but now is the time that councilors Brown, Huja, and Taliaferro can become true community heros if they choose to facilitate a sustainable transportation future for the Charlottesville area rather than support a project designed to solve transportation problems of the last century.

Friday, January 2, 2009

It is 2009!! If you missed First Night Virginia on Dec. 31, don't miss it again next year.

Happy New Year all. I am hoping 2009 will be the best year yet - but certainly much better than last year.

I got my button for First Night Virginia and attended four concerts - all of which were very good and entertaining. All of the individuals and groups I saw are from in or nearby Charlottesville so I thought I would recommend you give them a listen when you get a chance.

My first show was to see Brass 5. I always have enjoyed brass ensembles and having two trumpets, trombone, French horn, and tuba (with one percussionist) is a lot of brass. The group is from Roanoke area so they are not likely to be around Charlottesville very frequently, but they were a fun group to hear and they seemed to enjoy performing at first night VA too.

Second show was Terri Allard & Paul Reisler. I thoroughly enjoy listening to Terri Allard sing and Paul Reisler can do some fabulous and full sounding guitar pieces. Terri Allard is playing in Charlottesville often, but seeing (and hearing) Paul Reisler was really a treat.

For my third show, I chose to see Morwenna Lasko & Jay Pun. I have seen them listed for local concerts but knew nothing about them. But, this show was truly worth seeing. Both Morwenna (electrified violin) and Jay (electrified guitar) played their instruments and performed their own compositions with incredible punch and creativity. I will surely go hear them in concert in Charlottesville soon. Go see them.

And finally, I went to hear Alegria Latin Combo. It was really a fun show with some fabulous musicianship on guitar, bass, and percussion - and Anita Oliver captured me with her really direct singing style. The songs were all in Spanish, and my Spanish is nowhere, but the show was really terrific. I could have listened well into the night. They play at Maya on W. Main Street and I hope I will get to hear them sometime there (or elsewhere) soon.

So, I had a great time and discovered some wonderful local talent I will visit again, besides.