County portion of the Meadow Creek Parkway could open in less than a month

Construction of the Meadow Creek Parkway (MCP) has receded like a mirage for decades, as lawsuits held up the road that cuts through McIntire Park. While it may still take years for construction to begin on the city’s two portions, the Albemarle County section of the two-mile road was completed on October 13, one day ahead of schedule, and could open in less than a month.

The County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution last Wednesday requesting that its portion be opened by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) as soon as possible and, this time, City Council did not object.

The county portion of the Meadow Creek Parkway, which runs from Rio Road to Melbourne Road, was completed on October 13 and may open in less than a month, said the Virginia Department of Transportation. (Photo by John Robinson)

Councilor Kristin Szakos said that she felt that even if Council were to object to the opening of the Meadow Creek Parkway, the county would go ahead anyway.
“I feel like we are sort of exercising our non-power here,” she said. “It’s not really like the city has dragged its feet in the last couple of years. It’s been a lawsuit, it’s been regulatory things at the state and federal level that have slowed down this portion of it.”
In fact, the city portions of the MCP have been caught up in a string of lawsuits filed by the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park.

However, in June 2008, City Council approved both temporary and permanent easements for the construction of a portion of the road with five conditions, one of which stated that no part of MCP would open until all three portions are completed.
Coalition member John Cruickshank told C-VILLE that while he is not surprised by the county board’s vote, he said the conditions attached to the 2008 ordinance were added to protect the safety of students at Charlottesville High School.

“I would hope that the City Council would not make a decision allowing that to be open until they have carefully investigated it and gotten the opinions of the school administrations, the police force that supervises that area and certainly the School Board,” he said.
Jim Tolbert, director of the city’s Neighborhood Development Services told Council last Monday that when the 2008 ordinance passed, it was expected that the sec-
tions of the parkway would “fall into place one behind the other” and that within a year the entire project would be completed. “We know now that it is going to be late 2013, early 2014 before the city portion is done and the interchange is looking like a 2014 scenario,” he said.

The construction of the MCP has been divided into three pieces: the county’s Meadow Creek Parkway, which runs from Rio Road to Melbourne Road in the city; and two city projects, McIntire Road Extended, which runs through McIntire Park, and the Interchange at the 250 Bypass.

When the county’s portion of the road was opened for two weeks last year, city staff observed “pretty significant traffic increases,” said Tolbert. He added that traffic and safety improvements are needed before opening the road. The afternoon after the county board’s vote, VDOT said it was ready to begin the work necessary to open the road, which includes lane striping and the installation of traffic signals.
“VDOT will evaluate concerns recently identified by the city and coordinate with the city staff on appropriate action,” the press release said. VDOT estimates the road could open in less than a month.

According to a county staff report, failure to open the county road now could delay it for another four years. “VDOT has also indicated that the lack of use of the road for this period of time would likely result in surface deterioration” that, in turn, would cost the county funds originally dedicated to secondary road projects, reads the report.
City Council will pick up the discussion later this month.


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