Charlottesville City Councilor Kevin Lynch admits that building a road is, in his words, "like getting your teeth drilled." As the Meadowcreek Parkway (MCP) moves nearer to a construction date, he’s wondering why the city is the only one with dentist appointments.
When deciding whether to grant easements for the Meadowcreek Parkway, City Council has decided to use the Meadowcreek Parkway itself as leverage to get the county to build roads of their own, like the Eastern Connector
At the July 16 City Council meeting, the discussion of granting construction easements to the Virginia Department of Transportation turned into a platform for some councilors to gripe about Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors’ lack of progress on the regional transit network, of which the MCP is just one piece. Mayor David Brown ended the discussion by asking Jim Tolbert of Neighborhood Development Services to draft a resolution to present to the county regarding the county’s lack of progress on the Eastern Connector, an important part of the transportation network.
Lynch countered that the time for resolutions has passed.
"I would like to see us be clear that we’re not going to start construction [on the MCP] until we see some concrete progress from the county," Lynch says. "Originally the MCP was part of a series of road projects. None of them have happened."
Of those other projects, the Eastern Connector is getting the most attention. The city and county have each allocated $250,000 to study an alignment for this road that would link Route 29N and Pantops, mostly through county land. But while the MCP has moved ahead in City Council, the Eastern Connector has stalled. And some councilors are growing skeptical that it will ever be built.
"I really haven’t seen a lot of evidence that the funding is going to be there any time in the near or distant future," says Councilor Dave Norris. "One of the conditions that Council put on moving forward with the parkway was that the county would build the Eastern Connector to make sure the MCP isn’t a stand-alone solution to our traffic woes." Norris does say that it is unfair, however, to say the county hasn’t done anything.
Norris says the county’s backing of the creation of the Regional Transportation Authority, which would bring area transportation under a joint city-county body, is a sign of good faith. Lynch isn’t so sure. "They’re doing something about transit, which is good. But until gas gets a lot more expensive, it’s not going to be a replacement for having roads."
Both Norris and Lynch are concerned that if the MCP is built without a larger network of roads, the city will absorb even more county traffic, with the parkway serving as a north-south throughway. With Biscuit Run in the works, the MCP would connect the county’s largest development with Route 29N, the county’s largest commercial area.
Supervisor Sally Thomas says she is usually "pretty understanding of the city feeling bombarded with growth," but wonders why the city feels there’s a lack of commitment from the county. She says the county has been putting money aside for the MCP, which has taken money away from other projects. With the decrease in state funding, "we’re spread thin, but we’re fulfilling our commitments as fast as we can."
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