McAuliffe anoints Berkmar Drive, talks Morva

Governor Terry McAuliffe speaks at VDOT's ceremony to mark the opening of eight Route 29 Solutions projects. Staff photo Governor Terry McAuliffe speaks at VDOT’s ceremony to mark the opening of eight Route 29 Solutions projects. Staff photo

Virginia traffic officials began discussing ways to make U.S. 29—a highway that carries 50,000 vehicles a day—flow more successfully about three decades ago, Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne says. When Governor Terry McAuliffe took office three-and-a-half years ago, he made it a top priority.

Today, the governor and his colleague visited Albemarle County for a Virginia Department of Transportation ceremony to mark the opening of the Route 29 Solutions projects, which included extending Berkmar Drive from Hilton Heights Road to Towncenter Drive.

McAuliffe, Layne and about 70 prominent guests stood before the Berkmar Drive extension to celebrate and eventually cut the ribbon with several small pairs of scissors.

Governor McAuliffe speaks with City Councilor Kristin Szakos and Supervisor Ann Mallek. Staff photo
Governor McAuliffe speaks with City Councilor Kristin Szakos and Supervisor Ann Mallek. Staff photo

When the 72nd governor of Virginia took the podium, he said the people of Charlottesville and Albemarle County “made a lot of noise” about the busy highway corridor when he first took office. He remembers local entrepreneur Bill Crutchfield as the main squeaky wheel.

“Tell Bill the road is here,” McAuliffe said. And later he added, “You can bike, you can run, you can walk, you can do whatever you want.”

Virginia is the best state in the country, he claimed while clad in a navy suit and orange tie, but it won’t be if people can’t access it. “They’re not going to come to our state if they’re stuck in traffic.”

Layne, Board of Supervisors Chair Diantha McKeel and House of Delegates Minority Leader David Toscano also made remarks. In attendance were a number of supervisors and city councilors, as well as former supervisor Jane Dittmar, who ran for 5th District representative last year.

Other Route 29 projects, of which there are eight, include widening Seminole Trail from four to six lanes and extending Hillsdale Drive from Greenbriar Drive to Hydraulic Road. And the people of Charlottesville rejoiced when another project, the Route 29-Rio Road grade-separated intersection, opened last summer—46 days ahead of schedule.

Ribbon cutting. Staff photo

After the ribbon cutting, McAuliffe was grilled on other topics, including today’s scheduled lethal injection of William Morva, who was sentenced to death for the 2006 killing of hospital security guard Derrick McFarland and Montgomery County Sheriff Deputy Corporal Eric Sutphin. Morva, incarcerated for burglary and attempted robbery, was receiving medical treatment when he overpowered a guard watching him, fatally shot McFarland, escaped, and shot and killed Sutphin, who was searching for him.

Many have petitioned McAuliffe to grant the man clemency on the premise of him allegedly being mentally unstable at the time of the murders.

“I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t sleep a wink last night thinking about it,” the governor said, but didn’t give any indication of his final decision. Hours later, he decided not to grant clemency.

As for the KKK’s plans to rally in Charlottesville this Saturday, McAuliffe, who has vetoed more bills than any other governor, said a number of them discriminated against women and the LGBT community.

“To me, any discrimination breeds hatred,” he said. “People are entitled to free speech, but I’m not for hate speech.”

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