Meadowcreek Parkway update: If the suit fits…

True to their word, members of the Meadowcreek Parkway (MCP) opposition group Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park have filed a federal lawsuit against the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to prevent the construction of the U.S. 250 Bypass and McIntire Road interchange.

The 250 Bypass Interchange, the only component of the tripartite Meadowcreek Parkway to receive federal funding, would devastate historic properties and McIntire Park, according to a new federal lawsuit.

The design and construction of the controversial two-mile road has been discussed and debated for more than 40 years. The current design has been divided into three portions, each funded separately. The Interchange is the only portion that is federally earmarked.

“We have taken action here in federal court and our primary purpose in that is to save McIntire Park,” said John Cruickshank, a member of the coalition, at an afternoon press conference in front of the federal court building on Water Street. “Save the park for the people of Charlottesville today and in the future.”

The suit comes after the FHWA released a Finding of No Significant Impact for the interchange last September. In it, the agency stated that the project would have no adverse effects on McIntire Park and would, in fact, bring positive changes.

Peter Kleeman thinks otherwise. “We think that there are significant impacts,” he said. “We feel like this is a very timely case. We are not coming in at the very end as a last-ditch effort.”

In the current suit, the coalition cites Section 4f of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966, which prohibits the use of federal funding for transportation projects built on public parkland unless there is “no prudent and feasible alternative”—a line the coalition has referenced in previous protests. The coalition asserts in its legal claim that the interchange would “dramatically expand” the intersection between U.S. Route 250 and McIntire Road and destroy McIntire Park and the adjacent historic properties.

The coalition also argues that McIntire Road Extended—the proposed city portion of the parkway—lacks a southern terminus. Rather, “it terminates at a point 775 feet north of the Route 250 Bypass.” Coalition members argue that this violates the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires that federal projects have rational end points.

In 2009, the coalition argued in Charlottesville Circuit Court that a 3-2 City Council vote that granted the Virginia Department of Transportation an easement to build the MCP through the park was illegal. Circuit Court Judge Jay Swett ruled against the coalition’s claim.

The parkway’s segmentation is another point of contention. Currently, the MCP is divided into three projects: the Meadowcreek Parkway, in Albemarle County; McIntire Road Extended, in Charlottesville; and a final portion, the 250 Bypass Interchange. Unlike the other two projects, the interchange will be paid for with $27 million earmarked by former U.S. Senator John Warner.

“In 1985, Meadowcreek Parkway was one road with one name,” said Daniel Bluestone, a vocal parkway opponent and coalition member, at the press conference. “Fast forward to 2011 and what do we have? We have the same one road, but it’s now divided into three segments.”

This is not the first legal action the coalition has taken to stop the construction of the parkway. According to Cruickshank, it may not be the last. “It’s possible that we could also take legal action to prevent the construction of the McIntire Road Extended,” said Cruickshank.

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