The Steering Committee overseeing the design of the interchange to link the Meadowcreek Parkway with the

Route 250 Bypass and McIntire Road

met for the

eleventh time

on October 3, 2007 in the basement conference room at SNL Financial. The gathering took place just a month before a public hearing to consider the environmental impact of the interchange’s construction. No major decisions were made, but questions about the project continued to be raised by some members of the committee.

Shortly after the meeting began, Owen Peery of the engineering firm

RKK

sought to clear the air about news reports that originated after the last meeting.

“Is there any doubt in any of your minds that me or anyone on this project has any ambition to abolish the pedestrian bridge that we’ve all talked about, moved around, and done that kind of thing? Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind?” he asked.

Steering Committee member John Conover, who represents the

Rivanna Trails Foundation

, said he thought the issue of concern was overall pedestrian access to McIntire Park, and not necessarily the bridge. “If that can be done without a bridge, fine,” he said.





Alternative G1

Peery said he had heard that as well in connection with Alternative G1, which features a signalized intersection. But, he added that his opinion is not what matters as the process goes forward.

At issue is a suggestion that Peery made concerning the timing of the construction of whatever pedestrian bridge is selected. He made the comment as a suggestion of what might be done to help bring the project under budget, if the final plans exceed the amount of money allotted. Peery told the steering committee that terms used in construction do not always translate, and he was misunderstood when he used the word “phased.”

Councilor

Kevin Lynch

said he said it might make sense to break the project up for funding issues, but also suggested that City staff could get working now to secure federal funding to specifically pay for pedestrian improvements. Later in the meeting, Peery estimated that the cost of the pedestrian bridges would likely cost only 1 percent of the total project cost.

RKK staff members also took the steering committee through the draft environmental assessment that has been submitted to the

Federal Highway Administration

. Because parkland will be used in the project, that agency has to be convinced that a series of conditions set forth by Section 4(f) of the FHWA’s bylaws are satisfied. The agency accepted the document in late September, allowing a public hearing process to take place on November 1.

“What we’re telling the Federal Highway Administration is our design is far enough along now that we can predict what our impacts are to the design, and within reason we can nuance the project but we’re not going to go way outside these boundaries,” Peery said.

One of the potential impacts documented in the Environmental Assessment (

.PDF

) is a noise analysis of the various alternatives. The analysis was conducted by Bowlby and Associates of Franklin, Tennessee, and results were reported to the steering committee. Microphones were set up to model how three of the alternatives would affect noise levels at cultural resources identified in the document.





Alternative C1

“We found that just with the increase in traffic from the no-build alternative situation, you would have three affected receivers,” RKK engineer Brian Horn said. Alternative C1 would also have a similar increase in noise at those locations, but Alternative G1 would affect one more affected receivers because of vehicles stopped at the traffic lights waiting to get onto Route 250 would be louder while accelerating up the ramps.

On the issue of water quality, the draft environmental analysis acknowledges that the project will impact Schenk’s Branch by re-routing parts of it and by increasing the amount of square feet of impervious surfaces. However, the report says the impact will be minimized by storm water management, and that overall stream quality will be improved by “daylighting” Schenck’s Branch as it crosses underneath the 250 Bypass. Currently, it runs through a culvert.

The Draft Environmental Assessment also covers how the project will affect socioeconomic resources in the area, including the Covenant School, the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad and MACAA. But, steering committee alternate Robert Winstead wondered what the future of the McIntire Skate Park would be. Alternatives C1 and G1 would both route on-ramps through the park. Planning Commissioner Michael Farruggio, appointed to represent the Charlottesville Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, said that the plan is to eventually relocate the skate park in another City park. He added that more would be known after a Master Plan is conducted for McIntire Park.

Winstead wanted to know if the park’s replacement would be factored into the cost of the entire interchange project. Peery said that it was not, but there were plenty of line items for other costs associated with the project, including renovations of the Vietnam Memorial, stream restoration, landscaping, and other mitigations. He said the increased pedestrian and bike access to the McIntire Park could be seen as a counter-balance to the loss of the skate park.

The interchange project will go before the Board of Architectural Review on October 16 and will be presented at a Public Hearing on November 1. The public is invited to attend the meeting to submit comments in person or in writing. The deadline to submit comments on the Draft Environmental Assessment is November 13.  Peery said he is hoping to get City Council to select a preferred alternative by the end of the year.

Sean Tubbs

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