Monday, October 5, 2009

Why is VDOT providing outdated plans to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in support of a water quality permit application?

Below is a blog friendly version of the letter I received from VDOT Culpeper District Administrator James S. Utterback in response to my September 18, 2009 letter to Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer concerning using different VDOT plans to support different actions by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Charlottesville. Mr. Utterback's response clearly outlines that different plan sets were provided to both agencies, but does not state why this is an appropriate action. If in fact an interchange is the only currently approved southern terminus for the McIntire Road Extended project, why would VDOT provide the Corps of Engineers updated versions of the original at-grade intersection plans - plans that have been made obsolete by more recent actions by VDOT and Charlottesville City Council? Does this make any sense other than as a ploy by VDOT to obfuscate the true nature of the southern terminus of McIntire Road Extended and to avoid linking the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road and the McIntire Road Extended into one project?

If the southern terminus is currently planned to be an interchange, why provide plans to the Corps of Engineers for a project that will only be considered "if, and only if, the interchange project is abandoned. Is this an appropriate action by VDOT? I think the clear answer to this is no.

Do read the original letter and the response below and consider for yourself if this would meet a professional standard of practice in project planning.




September 28, 2009

Mr. Peter T. Kleeman
407 Hedge Street
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902

Dear Mr. Kleeman:

Secretary Homer has asked that I thank you for and respond to your letter regarding the McIntire Road Extended project in Charlottesville.

As you are aware, the City of Charlottesville had originally intended for McIntire Road Extended to connect with the Route 250 Bypass with an at-grade intersection, and plans for the project were developed that showed an at-grade connection. The City later determined that a grade-separated interchange is necessary, and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) subsequently revised its McIntire Road Extended plans to reflect a connection to the access ramps for the Route 250 Bypass Interchange project.

In conjunction with the Section 106 process for McIntire Road Extended, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested additional information about the project. VDOT provided the requested information, including plans that showed the original at-grade intersection connection along with the background and explanation for the modification to the original plan. These plans were clearly marked "Original Design - Modified 08-01-09" and contain the latest modifications to the original plans that would be used to construct the at-grade intersection if, and only if the interchange project is abandoned.

The plans provided to the City of Charlottesville that supported the application for a permanent utility easement reflect changes to the easement area that were requested by the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority. The Corps of Engineers has been advised of those modifications to the easement area, which do not affect the conditions the Corps is reviewing for the joint permit.

I regret that you were not able to contact the project manager to answer your questions. VDOT has consistently worked with you over the past several years to provide information and answer questions related to this and other transportation projects. To help us more efficiently respond to your questions, I suggest that you make such requests in writing to Mr. Lou Hatter, Culpeper District Public Affairs Manager, at 1601 Orange Road, Culpeper, Virginia 22701.


[signature: J. S. Utterback]

James S. Utterback, PMP
Culpeper District Administrator

Copy - The Honorable Pierce R. Homer
Mr David S Ekern P.E.
Mr. Lou Hatter

September 18, 2009

Mr. Pierce R. Homer
Secretary of Transportation
Commonwealth of Virginia
P.O. Box 1475
Richmond VA 23218

Dear Secretary Homer:

I have followed the development of a project called the Meadowcreek Parkway since about 1994 and have experienced the many transitions from it being a single federally funded project connecting Preston Avenue near downtown Charlottesville to Rio Road to it now being represented as three separate projects – Meadow Creek Parkway in Albemarle County, the McIntire Road Extended in Charlottesville, and the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road at the intersection of the proposed McIntire Road Extended and U.S. Route 250 Bypass in Charlottesville. I am troubled that in August of this year VDOT sent a revised U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit application along with plans indicating that the McIntire Road Extended project has an at-grade intersection at its southern terminus at U.S. Route 250 Bypass. But, also in August 2009 VDOT provided me plans indicating that McIntire Road Extended has its southern ‘terminus’ not at U.S. Route 250 Bypass, but 775 feet north of the bypass where it will presumably join the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road project. It also appears that VDOT distributed inconsistent plans to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and to the City of Charlottesville in August 2009 related to a permit application, and a request for a permanent utility easement, respectively. I contacted the VDOT project manager in the Culpeper District several times by telephone in the last two weeks hoping to clarify which of these inconsistent plans is the actual current plan, and why different plans have been distributed to the Corps of Engineers and to the City of Charlottesville, but have not received any such clarification.

As a civil engineer myself, I question the practice as well as the ethics of distributing inconsistent plans to stakeholders in the very same project. Not only are there inconsistencies in the plans, but the descriptions of the McIntire Road Extended project termini are different in the current Charlottesville-Albemarle Transportation Improvement Program and the VDOT Six-Year Improvement Program.

Distribution of inconsistent plans makes it impossible for interested parties in the project development process to provide meaningful and substantive comments about the project. Please look into what appears to me to be significant shortcomings in the information being provided to the Corps of Engineers, the City of Charlottesville, and to other project stakeholders by VDOT. I look forward to getting a formal statement indicating what the current plan is upon which current permit and right-of-way decisions should be based.


Peter T. Kleeman
407 Hedge Street
Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 296-6208

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