By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Wednesday, October 6, 2009

The

Charlottesville City Council

has heard details about the final design for the grade-separated interchange that will connect the Route 250 Bypass with

McIntire Road

and the

Meadowcreek Parkway

. The latest cost estimate for the interchange is $32.5 million.






Click for a larger image (Source: City of Charlottesville)


In June 2008,

Council voted to proceed

with a traditional diamond-shaped interchange where Route 250 Bypass world pass over the existing McIntire Road and the parkway. Former Senator John Warner secured a federal earmark to pay for at least $27 million of the project’s cost.


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In the final design, McIntire Road would be shifted slightly to the east in order to keep the grading of the on-ramps at a minimum. Access to

Hillcrest and Birdwood Roads

would be restricted to right-in/right-out under the design, but neither road would be closed. The entrance to the

Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad

will need to be moved, but not the facility itself. The interchange will not affect the location of the

Dogwood Vietnam Memorial

.

In late July, the Federal Highway Administration issued a memorandum of understanding about the project that the City Council has not yet signed. The next step in the process is a meeting this Friday to determine how the project’s impacts on nearby waterways and historical properties will be mitigated. After that, the design will go before citizens in a design public hearing, which will be followed by a final vote before Council.

“Approval by way of a Council resolution is a required step in order to obtain the federal highway authorization to proceed to right-of-way [acquisition],” said Angela Tucker, Charlottesville’s Development Services Manager.

The City will need to acquire several parcels of land to build the project, some of which will affect historic properties. Property acquisition will likely begin next spring, and Tucker said at least some parcels may have to be taken by eminent domain.

The details of these impacts and the necessary parcels will be shown at the design public hearing. Before then, a full set of the plans are available at the

Jefferson-Madison Regional Library’s central branch

.

Opponents of the Meadowcreek Parkway continue to claim that the City’s portion, the County’s portion and the interchange have been illegally segmented into three projects in order to reduce the level of federal regulatory scrutiny applied to the overall project. Their latest claim is centered around the idea that VDOT has submitted plans to the Army Corp of Engineers that depicts an at-grade interchange where McIntire Road and the Meadowcreek Parkway would connect. That would go against a list of conditions set forth by Council when they agreed to build the road earlier this decade.





Mayor Dave Norris challenges Angela Tucker to explain why VDOT plans show an at-grade intersection

“The agreement that the City and VDOT and the County have is that an at-grade intersection will not be built,” Tucker said. She said the interchange is a City project, and the Parkway is a VDOT project. If Council does not approve the interchange design, then she would need to come before Council with an at-grade solution. Tucker said the coordination point between the interchange and the Parkway is 755 feet north of the Route 250 Bypass.

Norris asked if the “real purpose” of the conflicting designs was to evade federal scrutiny. Tucker said the interchange could be built without the Parkway.

“The interchange could still be a safety enhancement that would improve the accident rate that currently exists at this intersection, which is three times the state-wide average,” Tucker said. Norris responded that he could accept that, but wondered why that design has never been shown.

“I’m still not convinced I got the clarity I was looking for,” Norris said. “We need to make it clear to all the parties officially that the City has a well-established position that this project requires a grade-separated interchange. I don’t think we can allow VDOT to portray it otherwise.”

Tucker said she would put together a document that tracks the paper trail in order to give Norris the assurance that the interchange will not be built as an at-grade intersection.