A proposal to take money from a nearly finished transportation project in Charlottesville to pay for improvements at the intersection of Hydraulic Road and U.S. 29 met with opposition at the City Council’s meeting Tuesday.
“Please do not shift any money away from the Old Lynchburg Road project before it is 100 percent completed with excellence,” said Jeanne Chase, of Fry’s Spring, who long has advocated for safety improvements on her street.
Construction is nearly complete on the $3.45-million project, which added sidewalks, bike lanes and curbs to a stretch of the road. Residents argue the road has become dangerous as more motorists use it to commute to the University of Virginia from Albemarle.
City staff had proposed taking $250,000 from the project, as well as $150,000 from the city’s portion of funding for the Meadow Creek Parkway, to purchase property to secure right-of-way for transportation improvements at the intersection of Hydraulic and U.S. 29.
Staff thinks it is urgent to move forward with the property acquisitions because a site plan has been filed to replace the Import Car Store with a new, 5,640-square-foot-bank, said Jim Tolbert, city director of neighborhood development services.
Tolbert said the Old Lynchburg Road project is 90 percent to 95 percent complete and the city has enough money in that account to pay the contractor.
“The completion date for this project is not until Nov. 30,” Tolbert said. “There are some issues that need to be corrected and we are aware of those and working with the contractors.”
Another Old Lynchburg Road resident was not happy with the idea.
“You shouldn’t shift any money to one project until the other one is finished,” said Robert Nowell. He added that the project has altered the flow of stormwater on his property, negating thousands of dollars he had previously invested in drainage.
“That was our home, but it’s a wasteland now,” Nowell said.
Tolbert said he has told Nowell that problems on his property caused by the improvements will be fixed.
Councilor Dave Norris suggested transferring the money from the capital improvement program’s contingency fund.
“[That] would not inflame the neighborhood or encourage the sense that we’re pulling money from that project,” Norris said.
The council voted 5-0 to take the $250,000 from the contingency fund.
“Thanks for putting trust back in the project,” Chase said after the vote.
Councilor Kathy Galvin said the incident caused her to question whether the neighborhood development services department has sufficiently listened to concerns from the neighborhood, leading to a lack of trust.
“We as council have almost been put in the position of being almost like a mediator between the community and a city department and I find that uncomfortable,” Galvin said.
City Manager Maurice Jones had a different view.
“There’s been a lot of community engagement from day one on this project,” Jones said.