By. Neil Williamson, President
In last night’s (1/4) Charlottesville City Council meeting, citizens raised an issue regarding the McIntire Interchange project and a staff response to the Federal government (who is funding the interchange project).
The letter from staff indicated City Council was in favor of the Meadowcreek Parkway projects regardless of the existence of an interchange. City Council has never voted on such a position. To remedy this semantics error, Council approved a letter be sent to the Federal Government explaining Council’s actions and correcting the record.
While the Free Enterprise Forum agrees the letter being sent by Council correctly reflects the previous votes of Council supporting the interchange project, we believe the letter does not go far enough. The letter should include reference to the validity of an at grade intersection as a potential solution.
In 2005, the Free Enterprise Forum commissioned an independent study (pdf) by Draper Aden Associates that clearly demonstrated the viability of an at grade intersection at US 250/McIntire/Meadowcreek Parkway. The report concluded:
To summarize, the ultimate plan is for a 4-lane highway (U.S. Route 250) to connect to two 2-lane (McIntire and Meadowcreek) roadways. In the vast majority of cases, this is accomplished at an at-grade intersection. Part of the reason for this is that such roadways (2-lane parkways and city streets) cannot carry the higher volumes necessary to warrant grade separation. If the interchange design effort includes the given that U.S. Route 250/River Road/High Street intersection, and to a lesser extent, the U.S. Route 250/Hydraulic intersection, will not be grade separated, then traffic volumes in excess of our 2008 and 2002 plus 8 percent estimates have to be seriously questioned. If this is a valid statement, then developing an at grade intersection which will allow Meadowcreek Parkway to operate safely and efficiently in the near term and, perhaps, even the long term, is a valid solution.
This study clearly demonstrates the independent utility of each of the three projects.
The Free Enterprise Forum believes if staff had indicated in their letter to the federal government that the at grade interchange was a proven workable transportation solution (rather than projecting a political vote) this may have been a moot point.
Facts are indeed stubborn things. In the early 2000’s opponents of the Parkway used the absence of a grade separate interchange as a reason for not building the road. Today, they are attempting to use the existence of the interchange as an obstacle to construction. The facts support building the construction of each of these projects with their independent utility.
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org