By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The

Charlottesville City Council

has sent a letter to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) that re-affirms it has not approved the construction of the

Meadowcreek Parkway

unless there is a grade-separated interchange with U.S. Route 250. The letter was drafted to clarify a claim by a city transportation official that Council would grant approval of an at-grade intersection in the event an interchange was not built.

The November letter from

Angela Tucker

, the city’s development services manager, was meant to update VDOT engineer Brent Sprinkel on the progress of the interchange.




Download the November 23, 2009 letter from Angela Tucker to Brent Sprinkel

VDOT has overseen the development of plans of the parkway in both the city and the county,  and the City has been responsible for designing the interchange. The two are considered to be separate projects by VDOT, the City and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

“If the City elects not to move forward with the interchange project, City Council will grant the necessary permission to complete the at-grade intersection,” Tucker wrote in the letter.

Mayor

Dave Norris

, an opponent of the parkway, took issue with that claim and wrote his own letter to Sprinkel .

“Council has taken no position on an at-grade intersection,” Norris wrote in the letter. On Monday, Council voted 5-0 to approve sending his letter to VDOT.




Download the January 4, 2010 letter from Mayor Norris to Brent Sprinkel

Norris also reminds Sprinkel of at least two times when Council has indicated it would only support the project moving forward with a grade-separated interchange.

The first was a letter from January 2006 in which then-Mayor

David Brown

listed twelve conditions under which Council would support the parkway, which included the grade-separated interchange.




Download Mayor David Brown’s January 18, 2006 letter to VDOT

The second was a

resolution from October 2007 that granted VDOT a temporary construction easement for the city’s portion of the parkway

. That letter required VDOT to state in writing that the easement would be used to construct a grade-separated interchange.

Council

approved a preliminary design for a diamond-shaped grade-separated interchange in early December 2009

. Under this plan, motorists on the Route 250 bypass will not have to stop at the intersection but will instead travel over a new bridge. A pair of traffic signals will regulate drivers who want to enter Route 250 from either the parkway or McIntire Road via on-ramps. Cyclists and pedestrians will not have to cross 250 itself, but will have to cross the on-ramps at-grade. Council will have one more chance to approve the final design later this year.

Even though he supported the letter, Councilor

Satyendra Huja

said he would be supportive of an at-grade intersection.

“In my mind it would do no harm to have an at-grade intersection,” Huja said. “If it works out that way, I would not shed any tears.”

The City’s portion of the parkway

was advertised for bids in late December

. However, the federal review process required for both the interchange and the City’s portion of the parkway has not yet been completed.

Albemarle County’s portion of the road is

already under construction

.

Opponents of the parkway argue that all three projects should be considered as one in order to trigger a full federal review of the parkway’s entire impact.  One group, the

Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park

, is considering filing a federal lawsuit to assert their claim.

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