Council stops interchange dead in its tracks

Way back in July, Charlottesville had grand designs on breaking ground for the Meadowcreek Parkway (MCP) in the fall of 2008. Fast forward nine months, and the birth of the controversial parkway through a park is still far off in the distance.

At an April 21 City Council meeting, where 30 of the 34 public speakers came out against the MCP, councilors refused to approve a design for the 250 interchange. Instead, they scheduled a work session for late May, after which they’ll kick the whole mess back to the 250 Interchange Steering Committee.

In short, this is far from being a done deal.

The design’s footprint was too big for Council, even those members like Julian Taliaferro and David Brown, who are MCP supporters. Taliaferro called the design “out of character for the intersection.”

City Council couldn’t be convinced of this interchange option—Julian Taliaferro expressed concern that it might be too big—and will hold a work session in late May.
Previous C-VILLE coverage:

Agency says MCP needs another look
DHR: Environmental assessment may not go far enough

Pick one: public gets a look at last two interchange designs
A vocal opposition shows up at the MCP public hearing

Council makes final step towards MCP
Norris forced to choose between principle and pragmatism

Meadowcreek Parkway to-do list in city
Council approves two designs for 250 interchange

MCP may have future legal problems
Parkway project’s segmentation could be illegal

Commission approves MCP interchange
Commissioner Lucy frustrated with final review

Parkway interchange design gets support
Committee likes roundabout design as new city gateway

State funding problems affect local roads
Meadowcreek Parkway could be stalled

County approves road priorities
Meadowcreek Parkway tops the list

Councilor Holly Edwards, who along with Satyendra Huja is new to Council, says the MCP is still politically viable but that she couldn’t support it in its current form.

“I didn’t feel comfortable with the design options that were presented,” she says. “The thing I’d really like to believe is that there’s a way to build a compromise. Whether or not building a compromise means building a road, I don’t know.”

There are still roadblocks in the path of construction, and one of those is the not-insignificant $4-8 million gap in funding the 250 interchange. City Development Services Manager Angela Tucker told Council that the design can be directed to stay within the $27 million federal earmark for the interchange, though it’s unclear if an off-brand design will satisfy Council.

The interchange is only one of three technically separate projects that together would form the Meadowcreek Parkway. And the city School Board still needs to give its approval of a donation of roughly 8.5 acres of land to build the city portion of the actual road, as opposed to the interchange.

School Board Chairman Ned Michie says that he expects the Board to do just that at their May 1 meeting. It will likely come with some conditions, like a 25mph speed limit around the school—a detriment to the idea of the MCP being a quick route into Downtown—though the approval has a distinctly pro forma feel.

The School Board doesn’t seem to have much to gain by trading ball fields for a busy road, but Michie makes it clear that the School Board won’t make a stand against the MCP, even though he’s received some pressure from anti-parkway people to do just that. The battle over the parkway, says Michie (who himself has mixed feelings about the MCP), is better fought in City Council than in front of the School Board.

“We weren’t elected to make transportation decisions,” says Michie. “Numerous City Council members have run and included that as part of their platforms, and the voters have had a chance to choose people based in part on city councilors’ positions on the Meadowcreek Parkway.”

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