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.

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