Friday, April 10, 2009

Will the Meadowcreek Parkway be a topic in the City Council Campaign?

I am hoping a community-wide discussion of the Meadowcreek Parkway Project (with two of the three components of this project currently under design for construction in Charlottesville's McIntire Park). I am hoping that this issue will be addressed and each candidate will identify a clear rationale for their support for or opposition to the parkway project as it is currently conceived. Only Kristin Szakos has posted a statement of her position on her campaign website. Dave Norris has voted not to continue funding both city components of the parkway - McIntire Road Extended and the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road. Julian Taliaferro has recently stated that he has an open mind about supporting construction of the City's parkway related projects, but continues to vote for all council actions necessary to continue the project. Announced independent candidate Andrew Williams has not to my knowledge made any statements yet about his thoughts regarding the Meadowcreek Parkway.

Below is an abstract of how I see each candidates position on the parkway (with my reaction to each position).

Dave Norris: Incumbent candidate Dave Norris voted against granting any permanent or temporary easements for construction of McIntire Road Extended and the Meadow Creek Parkway (portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway north of Melbourne Road - yes, the names are too similar and confusing). Dave Norris frequently states his desire to see the funding allocated to this project be reprogrammed for use in enhancing other transportation needs including transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects. Current City Council members Dave Norris and Holly Edwards routinely vote against spending funds for the parkway project, while councilors David Brown, Satyendra Huja and Julian Taliaferro routinely vote for continued funding and development of the parkway project.

Kristin Szakos: Candidate Kristin Szakos states the following on her campaing website material: "I have opposed the Meadowcreek Parkway plan for many years, not because I don’t see the need for better transportation into and around Charlottesville, but because I believe better uses could be made of McIntire Park, like making it accessible to all our residents by providing bus service and programming for kids. But I was not on the City Council when the Meadowcreek Parkway was approved in a series of votes over the past few years. On the basis of that approval, contracts have been signed and work has begun. Although I do not like the parkway’s route, I will not vote to overturn that decision and put Charlottesville in breach of those agreements. The decision has been made by a duly elected body and should stand unless a court determines that it is illegal."

Julian Taliaferro: Incumbent candidate Julian Taliaferro to my knowledge has no formally stated position on the Meadowcreek Parkway (and currently has no campaign website I can refer you to). He supported the Meadowcreek Parkway throughout most of his first term on City Council. Within the past month or so, however, Julian Taliaferro stated that he now has an "open mind" on the parkway. He has stated that it is possible that he may change his position supporting the parkway. But, at the April 6, 2009 city council meeting, Julian Taliaferro indicated that he would not consider voting against the $450,000 in the proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP) because he feared the prospect that the city might have to repay several million dollars to VDOT if the project funding was removed implying that removing these funds is the equivalent of cancelling the project. Given that both the McIntire Road Extended project and the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road are both in preliminary engineering, I have argued (and continue to argue) that the "no-build" alternative is still a viable option and if chosen by council would be a logical termination of preliminary engineering - not a cancellation of the project. If Julian Taliaferro can't see past the possibility of reimbursing VDOT, it doesn't matter how much of an "open mind" he has about the design. Based on his comments on April 6, I can only assume that Julian Taliaferro remains in support of the Meadowcreek Parkway project.

Andrew Williams: I have no knowledge of candidate Andrew Williams position on the Meadowcreek Parkway and am unaware of any campaign website indicating his positions.

Driving the Conversation

I hope you will participate in some of the upcoming candidate forums and will question all of the candidates on their ideas for meeting the transportation challenges facing Charlottesville in the near- and long-term future. I believe further investment in any of the components of the Meadowcreek Parkway will keep us from working toward a truly sustainable transporttion future. Perhaps the Meadowcreek Parkway will be known as the last major road project in our region and it will be highlighted as the project that was all about politics (and not about meeting transportation needs) for which we sacrificed a major piece of McIntire Park and had significant impact on the historic properties in and in the vicinity of McIntire Park.

I don't recommend that you be a single issue voter on the Meadowcreek Parkway, but in this campaign, a candidate's position on the parkway will provide good insight into that candidate's support for sustainable development, protection of the historic fabric of our community, valuation of parkland and tree-cover, and their willingness to make decisions about Charlottesville's future based on current information, goals, and vision rather than follow the lead of previous council decisions to move forward a project that may once have appeared necessary, but no longer meets our future transportation needs. Times do change, and we need city councilors who will lead Charlottesville rather than councilors who will follow the decisions - good or bad - of previous leaders.

5 comments:

Cat Herrington said...

Peter, your last point about needing council members who *lead* is right on target in my opinion! Well said!

I appreciate that you have pulled together the known positions of each of the announced candidates on this particular issue. In a search for information on his position on this issue and others, I found a "closed" group on Facebook for Mr. Williams, called "Andrew D Williams for Charlottesville City Council", although it did not contain any details. That page also gave a link to a website for him (http://www.andrewwilliams4citycouncil.com/) however, at the moment, the link appears to be broken.

Anonymous said...

Let's hope it's not an issue. My impression is the Dem leaders in town want it to be THE issue, which is a disservice to all citizens

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Lyle Solla-Yates said...

Interesting article Peter, thank you. What remains unclear to me is whether voting down the Parkway during preliminary engineering will actually put the city on the hook for millions to the state. As I understand it, this did not occur when the Western Bypass was axed, but perhaps something has changed? Szakos and Taliaferro both seem to believe this would be a problem, while Norris apparently does not. Is this risk at all predictable?

DaveNorris said...

Good question Lyle. First of all, it's not at all clear that we'd have to reimburse the state for those funds. And we've only spent a small portion of the total project funds anyway. Worst case scenario is we have to pay the state a few million dollars in order to save our largest park, save our wading pool, save our skate park, save the gardens at Rock Creek Academy, and prevent the construction of a new thru-way through downtown Charlottesville. And doing so saves the taxpayers tens of millions of dollars that can be spent on better transportation projects. Seems like a pretty good deal to me.