Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Will Charlottesville City Council act - or not act - to prematurely open Meadow Creek Parkway

Charlottesville City Council is poised to drop a legal condition relating to the controversial Meadowcreek Parkway. In June 2008, the City Council approved permanent and temporary easements for VDOT to build a portion of the Parkway across City-owned property near Melbourne Road in the County. One of the five conditions (by ordinance) "That no part of the Meadow Creek Parkway project (i.e., the Albemarle County Meadow Creek Parkway section, the City McIntire Road Extended section, or the Interchange/Intersection project at the 250 Bypass and McIntire) will be open for public use until the entire project is complete and ready for opening." Given that McIntire Road Extended and the Interchange/Intersection project at the 250 Bypass and McIntire are years away from completion (if they are ever completed) council would have to amend (replace) this ordinance to eliminate this condition to allow the Meadow Creek Parkway to open.

Councilor Szakos may be the swing vote on deciding whether or not to drop this condition. Councilors Brown and Huja have consistently voted to move the parkway forward while councilor Edwards and Mayor Norris have consistently voted not to move the parkway forward. Interestingly, councilor Szakos has stated her opposition to the parkway, but also that she would not vote to overturn decisions on the parkway of previous councils. These nuanced positions were a key part of Szakos' campaign when she was elected to council in 2009. Now, if councilor votes to remove the condition she appears to be flopping on both of these positions. She will both be voting for the parkway (at least part of it) to open AND to overturn the decision of the 2008 easement decision by council prior to her election!

Of further interest, I am unaware of the Albemarle Board of Supervisors formally requesting city council to amend this ordinance. Council appears to be acting in advance of any such request.

Councilor Szakos may be spending significant political capital if she in fact votes to allow premature opening of Meadow Creek Parkway. I believe council in 2008 acted wisely in not allowing any portion of the parkway project between Route 250 Bypass and Rio Road to open and only open the road when completed. I believe the current council should honor that wise decision. VDOT constructed the portion of the parkway north of Melbourne Road fully aware that the other sections would require many additional months or years of planning, design, environmental approval and construction.

It appears to me that VDOT chose to construct early to get a favorable bid price in a 'down' construction period and now may be realizing that early construction to reduce construction cost may entail extended maintenance costs making their decision not an economic one. I suppose both VDOT and Albemarle County want to cover that questionable decision by premature opening of the road and spending even more money to mitigate safety concerns for the opening of one part of the road.

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