“We really appreciate your patience and tolerance because I know that living in the middle of a construction zone has got to be miserable,” Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of Neighborhood Development Services, told the group gathered at the Covenant School on Wednesday.
Tolbert said construction on the parkway interchange is ahead of schedule. The grade-separated interchange will elevate the U.S. 250 Bypass over McIntire Road, completing its connection to the John Warner Parkway running between Rio and Melbourne roads.
“We hope to get beneficial use of [the interchange] by the end of the year,” Tolbert said. “If we get beneficial use, that means that we’ll pretty much be out of your hair and out of your way.”
The project’s target completion date, according to Tolbert, is July 2.
Tolbert said he has been extremely impressed by the pace at which construction has progressed. He added that the beams that form the bridge of the interchange went up incredibly quickly.
“They started putting the girders in a little after 7 [p.m.],” Tolbert said. “I left the council meeting at about 10:30 [p.m.] and half of them were already up. It’s pretty phenomenal.”
Owen Peery, project manager for the design engineering firm RK&K, joined Tolbert to respond to questions from the public.
“There weren’t as many large canopy trees as I had hoped,” said Paul Josey, a member of the Charlottesville Tree Commission. He also said several large trees have died as a result of construction.
“The things that are in decline, the contractor’s going to have to replace at his cost,” Peery said. “That’s not a city cost.”
Jeanette Janiczek, the city’s urban construction initiative manager, said that most of the project’s landscaping will be completed this fall.
“Overall, there’s a lot of great trees being planted and great species selected, so it’s not all negative,” Josey said.
Other neighbors complained of a groundhog infestation that has emerged on their property since several of the trees were removed.
The sound of emergency vehicles exiting from the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad’s facility on McIntire Road also was a point of discussion. Residents were particularly concerned about the increase in volume since the station’s entrance was moved from the intersection at U.S. 250 closer to Harris Street.
Members of the public asked for support from the city in conversations with the rescue squad.
“We’ll keep working with you on that because we understand,” Tolbert told the crowd.
Peery said the emergency traffic signal at the entrance will help reduce noise in the future once the rescue squad becomes more accustomed to using it.
The group also discussed pedestrian connectivity around the interchange.
Tolbert said the city is studying the logistics of a sidewalk along U.S. 250 and would later go to the City Council to budget the funds if the project seems feasible.
“It looks like it might be possible to build a sidewalk down the front [of the Covenant School],” Tolbert said. “If we do that, it won’t be done as part of this project.”
Nearby resident Jennifer Trompetter said she thinks a sidewalk in front of Covenant was something that had been overlooked and would be useful to residents as they walk around the neighborhood.
“We don’t have many connections beyond our neighborhood,” Trompetter said. “It would be nice to have more connections within our neighborhood.”
Peery said a pedestrian bridge being built over the railroad tracks that divide McIntire Park also will contribute to pedestrian connectivity.
“It’s finally going to be one park instead of two,” Tolbert said. “That’s pretty incredible.”
Tolbert encouraged members of the public to contact him with any other questions or concerns they might have.