FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL
By. Neil Williamson, President
This front page of morning’s Daily Progress (4/21) features a Rachana Dixit article outlining the latest effort by Meadowcreek Parkway opponents (AKA The Coalition to Save McIntire Park) to push Charlottesville City Council to delay the construction of McIntire Extended. This article and the recent announcement by Former Mayor David Brown that he would not be seeking reelection led the Free Enterprise Forum to consider the very real potentiality of the Meadowcreek Melbourne Parkway.
After spending part of yesterday afternoon watching vehicular traffic at the intersection of Melbourne and Park Streets, the Free Enterprise Forum is left wondering, how might traffic counts be impacted if the Meadowcreek Melbourne Parkway were to open in April 2012? While there has been some discussion in the community regarding the northern terminus of McIntire Road Extended project, few have mentioned how the Albemarle County road project’s southern terminus will be impacted by non action.
Before Charlottesville City Council last year, VDOT Engineer Kenneth Shirley, PE testified that all the project were scheduled to open concurrently, other than a brief use of the county portion as a detour during the construction on part of the City project. But what if those schedules, as they seem to be doing, slip?
While the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) will not comment on such hypothetical situations, one could imagine that it started construction on the Albemarle portion of the road relying on multiple assurances from the city including then Mayor Virginia Daugherty 1999 letter which (after indicating City Council’s 12 conditions for approval) closed stating “We stand ready to cooperate with VDOT in moving this project from the proverbial drawing board to construction.”
The Meadowcreek Melbourne Parkway could provide limited traffic relief while the Army Corps of Engineers and various legal maneuvering dither regarding the City’s linguistics in their memorandum of understanding.
As the three separate projects [Meadowcreek Parkway (county), 250/McIntire Interchange (Federal/City) and McIntire Extended (city)] sit today, the Albemarle County project is estimated to be complete in October of 2011. The Free Enterprise Forum has learned that the most optimistic projection, barring any further delays, for completion of the design (not construction) of the interchange is now 2011.
It is no secret that VDOT is strapped for road construction funds; therefore it would be folly to imagine they would simply let the $30,590,522 infrastructure investment sit closed for any longer than the six months already agreed to by Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.
One of the legal points the opponents to the Meadowcreek Parkway use is that the projects do not have “independent utility”. If VDOT does choose to open the Meadowcreek Melbourne Parkway prior to the completion of the two city projects, it will be abundantly clear to the residents near Melbourne and Park Street and to every student at Charlottesville High School that the new road has independent utility. In addition, the traffic that will cut through on Brandywine, Kenwood and Yorktown as well as Park Street may cause residents to put up new “Save The Neighborhood, Build the Road” signs.
This really is much more than an academic question, given Albemarle County’s stated willingness to hold off opening their project for at least six months, The Melbourne Parkway ribbon cutting could be held as early as Thomas Jefferson’s 269th birthday April 13th, 2012.
As it stands today, the possible ribbon cutting dates for the McIntire/250 Interchange and McIntire Extended projects can not yet be projected.
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded 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