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March 16, 2010

VDOT and City Council at odds over Meadowcreek Parkway interchange

Reader comments (3) By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris said Monday he would not sign a letter, written for him by VDOT officials, that claims City Council was open to endorsing a connection of the Meadowcreek Parkway to the U.S. 250 bypass without a new grade-separated interchange.

“Council has been consistent to say that we will not support an at-grade intersection option,” Norris said in an e-mail.

The letter, which was written for Norris by VDOT Engineer Brent Sprinkel, is addressed to the regulatory officer at the Army Corps of Engineers responsible for issuing a permit that would allow for construction of the road through McIntire Park.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has classified the Meadowcreek Parkway as three separate projects, each of which has its own regulatory hurdles.

Albemarle County’s portion is under construction, but neither the city’s section of the road or the interchange have yet been cleared by federal and state officials.

VDOT advertised the construction project for the roadway in December, and the lowest bid received was for $3.37 million from Clarksville-based Key Construction Co. Inc. However, the contract cannot be awarded until the Corps gives clearance that impacts on historic and environmental resources have been adequately mitigated.

Last summer, the Corps asked VDOT to submit new plans for the City’s portion of the parkway, called McIntire Road Extended, because the original ones submitted did not depict a southern terminus. In November, city officials sent a letter to VDOT claiming that Council would approve an at-grade intersection if a permit is not granted for the grade-separated interchange.

That prompted Council to send a letter of its own in January reminding VDOT that the city’s decision to move forward with the parkway depended on several conditions, including the use of a grade-separated interchange.

Sprinkel’s letter informed Norris that the bid would expire by the end this month, and that construction costs could rise. Sprinkel also told Norris that Charlottesville has slowed the Corps down by sending mixed messages.

“These two letters from the city appear in conflict and have confused the Corps and resulted in a temporary delay in issuing the permit needed for construction of McIntire Road Extended,” Sprinkel wrote.

Norris said he cannot sign the letter because its last sentence is at odds with Council’s positions.

“Either the letter needs to be amended or a majority of Councilors needs to decide that an at-grade intersection is an acceptable Plan B,” Norris said in an e-mail.

Mark Haviland, a spokesman for the Corps’ Norfolk District, said in an interview that he had not seen Sprinkel’s letter. He added the permit application is still under review.

Meanwhile, the county’s portion of the road is well under construction. This week crews are working on bridges to carry vehicles as well as pedestrians over Meadow Creek. The road is expected to be completed in the fall of 2011.

Council approved a final design for a grade-separated interchange in December, but the project is still under review by the Federal Highway Administration and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

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