Two weeks ago the Charlottesville City Council called out Albemarle County on what it perceived as the county’s unwillingness to move forward on transportation projects supporting the Meadowcreek Parkway (MCP). County officials answered with the bureaucratic equivalent of turning their pockets inside out: pointing to a budget stretched thin by a decrease in state funding.
One solution to a budget shortfall? Raise taxes. A report released on July 30 by Charlottesville Tomorrow shows that of the 1,045 county residents surveyed, 56 percent would support a modest increase in taxes to fund priority transportation projects. Could that be the answer to the construction of the Eastern Connector? Not likely, says county Supervisor Dennis Rooker.
County Supervisor Dennis Rooker says, regarding the proposed Eastern Connector, that it would mostly benefit the city.
"We have an interest in pursuing transportation projects in the interest of the county and the city," says Rooker. "That project is being pursued largely at the request of the city."
The Eastern Connector would connect Pantops to Route 29N and run mostly through county land. City councilors point to it as one of the most important roads in the regional transportation network. Without it, they argue, the MCP would essentially serve as a city cut-through for country traffic, placing an even larger volume of traffic on city residential streets.
While the city is moving forward on the MCP, the Eastern Connector is stalled in planning stages. Supe David Slutzky says that even if the county did raise taxes, work on the Eastern Connector wouldn’t move any quicker.
"If we had good data to tell us the degree to which the Pantops area and places east of there need to be connected with 29 North, I think it would be a no-brainer that we’d want to build the Eastern Connector," he says. "What’s not clear to me is where it should go whether it should be all-transportation modality. There’s obviously got to be more study until we figure that out."
While Rooker can sympathize with the city’s worries about cut-through traffic, he says taxes or no taxes, the Eastern Connector is at an early stage and a long way off. "We don’t even have the traffic component from the study," he says. "Right now I don’t know if the route that might be selected is a $10 million project or a $100 million project."
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