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.

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