Sunday, December 27, 2009

City staff overstates viability of an at-grade intersection for McIntire Road Extended project - Again

Here is a letter I received from Ms. Kathy Perdue, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project manager for the McIntire Road Extended project. The letter is from Ms. Angela Tucker, the city of Charlottesville's project manager, to Brent Sprinkel, the Virginia Department of Transportation's project manager and attempts to clarify the relationship between the McIntire Road Extended and the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road projects.

I believe this letter further confuses the relationship. City council has never approved construction of an at-grade intersection at Route 250 Bypass for the McIntire Road Extended project, and now Ms. Tucker states that "City Council will grant the necessary permission to complete the at-grade intersection" at McIntire Road. I find this a bit of an overstatement by Ms. Tucker and the idea of seeking federal permits on a hypothetical statement of this kind is clearly not defensible. The issue of no designated funding for an at-grade intersection is totally ignored, and these funds and necessary right-of-way needs are not readily available for this intersection.

City Council needs to state specifically what its intentions are concerning a possible at-grade intersection. Past statements by council appear to prohibit construction of an at-grade intersection have seen in simulation models that such an intersection fails to meet traffic demand at an acceptable level of service.

Now is the time for the true relationship between the McIntire Road Extended and Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road projects to be stated - that these two projects are not independent of each other, but should be planned as a single facility that connects Route 250 Bypass to Melbourne Road.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Advisory Council on Historic Preservation publishes Case Summary on McIntire Road Extended and Route 250 Bypass Interchange

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) published its Fall 2009 Case Digest describing several projects including the "New Interchange and Road Extention in Charlottesville." This publication describes ACHP involvement in both the McIntire Road Extended and Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road projects that have impacts on historic resources in and around the eastern portion of McIntire Park. Several historic resources on or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places will be impacted by the proposed road and interchange projects and the ACHP is involved in developing a Memorandum of Agreement on treatment of these resources with both the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Army Corps. The image above is taken from the Case Digest and is a view of the rock wall at Rock Hill Garden - one of the impacted historic resources.

It is my understanding that the ACHP is in the process of coordinating the development of an agreement among all the local, state and federal agencies involved in the projects stipulating how the historic resources are to be treated if the projects move forward. But, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has disregarded this ongoing activity required under Section 106 or the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 as amended and advertised for construction of the McIntire Road Extended project. To me this illustrates clearly VDOT's lack of concern for historic resources in its project development process. The Section 106 process on both the road and interchange projects wasn't initiated until very late in the project development and VDOT and the City of Charlottesville are moving their projects forward without considering findings of this effort.

I am very interested to see how the ACHP, the State Historic Preservation Officer of Virginia and other stakeholders in this process will react to actions by both VDOT and the City of Charlottesville. Suprisingly, Charlottesville's City Council approved signing a Memorandum of Agreement on the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road project that to my knowledge has not yet been completed, primarily on the statement of Owen Peery, the project manager for the City's engineering consultant - RK&K Engineers - that all signatories to the agreement are prepared to sign and encouraged city councilors to approve a document that they have not even seen. This is a shocking situation and appears not to be in compliance with many federal and state regulations relating to historic preservation.

I have sent letters to both ACHP and the U.S Army Corps of Engineers project leaders seeking reaction to VDOTs action and inquiring if this action is even legitimate at this state of the Section 106 process. I am awaiting their responses.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

VDOT advertises McIntire Road Extended project for construction - what is up with that?

Sean Tubbs of Charlottesville Tomorrow contacted me yesterday to get my reaction to the news that VDOT advertised the McIntire Road Extended project for construction. My first reaction was that this couldn't be true. My understanding is that VDOT cannot advertise for construction contractor bids until all required preliminary engineering and right-of-way activities were complete. The Section 106 review process - a federally required review of the project's impacts on resources listed or eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (for which the eastern side of McIntire Park is eligible for listing) is currently underway, but not complete. This process is not completed until a Memorandum of Agreement among the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the State Historic Preservation Officer, and others is signed. No Memorandum of Agreement on avoidance or mitigation of historic resources has yet been executed. Even more surprising to me is that the purpose of the Section 106 process is to influence the project design so as to respect the historic character of the impacted resources. By advertising this project prior to completion of this process, VDOT is indicating its total disregard for the historic resources to be impacted by this project.

VDOT requested the necessary U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit related to a stream crossing for the project just advertised with a southern terminus located 0.147 miles (775 feet) north of U.S. Route 250 Bypass, but the Corps asked VDOT to provide a logical southern terminus to the project. The terminus being a point in the middle of the golf course was not adequate for the permit to be considered as a complete project submittal. VDOT then send the Corps an at-grade intersection design based on the 1999 project design as a southern terminus - an intersection that is no longer under consideration and eliminated from consideration by the Charlottesville City Council. I am curious to see how the Corps of Engineers react to this apparent "bait and switch" proposal now that the at-grade intersection is not part of the project advertisement.

I and other project stakeholders contend that the true southern terminus for this project is the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road, currently under development by the City of Charlottesville as a federal-aid highway project.

I suppose there are many possible "next steps" in this process including withdrawal of the advertisement, objection by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the permit request as submitted, and objection to the failure to consider adequately possible mitigation of impacts on historic resources by the State Historic Preservation Officer. I hope all of these happen to ensure that VDOT project do not move forward without allowing the public and other stakeholders the opportunities guaranteed to them to help develop the best possible project design to meet the needs of all project stakeholders.

I truly believe VDOT is out of line on this action and look forward the what happens next. The graphic (from C-ville Weekly) shows a recent citizen demonstration in opposition to this road going though historic McIntire Park. I expect that more citizen demonstrations will occur in reaction to VDOT's action. The estimated contract value is $6.9 million many believe would be better spent on a host of lest destructive and necessary transportation projects in Charlottesville.

Do read the Sean Tubbs report at the Charlottesville Tomorrow website or in today's Daily Progress.