By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, June 1, 2012

The City of Charlottesville is proceeding quickly with plans to construct the Meadow Creek Parkway interchange following the dismissal of a legal challenge in federal court.

“Construction should be visibly underway toward the end of this year or the beginning of next year,” said Owen Peery with RK&K, the firm hired to design the interchange.

On Tuesday, Judge Norman K. Moon dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park claiming the Federal Highway Administration had violated federal law when it authorized the $33.5 million project.

“I was not surprised by Judge Moon’s ruling, the lawsuit was a long shot but one worth taking,” said City Councilor Dave Norris , an opponent of the parkway.

Members of the Coalition are still deciding whether to appeal the case.

“We don’t have any decisions about what we’re going to do,” said Coalition member Peter Kleeman . “Some of us are leaning towards an appeal and some of us are not.”

Peery said the plan is to advertise the project for construction bids sometime this summer and to award a contract in October.

However, the city must first complete right of way acquisition and obtain formal authorization from the Federal Highway Administration.

“The design is nearing final completion and the necessary right of way acquisition is ongoing and has been ongoing over the last several months,” Peery said.

Angela Tucker , development services manager for the city, said in a staff report that the city received federal authorization to begin acquiring nine slivers of land along the roadway’s frontage last September.

The city has been able to come to agreement with five property owners, but was not able to do so with four.

“We have not been able to reach agreement… and do not believe a timely compromise can be found through further negotiations,” Tucker wrote.

Federal, state and local governments have the authority to condemn properties for projects deemed to be in the public interest. The Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970 requires displaced property owners to be paid the fair market value.

Two of the public hearings will determine whether City Council will approve proceedings to take property from the Covenant School and a holding company called Middle Mountain LLC.

The portion of the property owned by the Covenant School is appraised at $64,463. The city has so far offered $81,463 plus other considerations.

The property owned by Middle Mountain LLC is appraised at nearly $230,000. The city had offered $247,122 for easements and permanent right of way.

Negotiations with two other property owners are still on-going.

The interchange will also require relocation of utility lines owned by Dominion Virginia Power and CenturyLink.  Council will hold two public hearings Monday on that matter as well.

Norris has consistently voted against parkway related actions ever since he joined Council in 2006.

“City Council has long been in support of the Parkway project as a whole and I expect Council will vote on Monday night to use eminent domain to push the interchange forward,” Norris said. “There has long been a Council minority in opposition to the Parkway project due to its significant financial and environmental costs and I remain among its ranks.”

Peery did not give a date for when the interchange would be completed.

The city’s portion of the parkway – known as McIntire Road Extended — is expected to be completed by October 2013.

Albemarle County’s portion of the road, the John Warner Parkway, opened to traffic in January.

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Charlottesville Tomorrow

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