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June 03, 2011

Final regulatory hurdle cleared for city’s portion of Meadow Creek Parkway

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Friday, June 3, 2011


The Virginia Department of Environment Quality has issued a permit that will allow contractors to begin work on the city’s portion of the Meadow Creek Parkway, a project known as McIntire Road Extended.

“This is the final approval needed to execute the contract and begin construction,” said Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman Lou Hatter in an email to Charlottesville Tomorrow.

“These authorizations allow the permittee(s) to proceed with the projects from our perspective,” said the DEQ’s Steven Hardwick in an email to Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Mcp-image

The item is the final regulatory hurdle for the road, which will travel through the eastern side of Charlottesville’s McIntire Park. The portion of the parkway that travels through Albemarle County is still being completed, though it was briefly open to traffic last fall as workers re-routed a portion of East Rio Road.

The DEQ issued the permit on behalf of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That agency has been coordinating a review of how impacts on cultural and historical resources will be mitigated as part of the project, a process known as a Section 106 review.

“Based on DEQ’s review, the proposed project qualifies for the Virginia Water Protection General Permit Number WP3,” wrote David L. Davis of the agency’s Office of Wetlands and Water Protection in a letter to Kenneth J. Shirley, VDOT’s project manager for the parkway.

A memorandum of agreement between the Corps, the city, VDOT and federal and state historic preservation agencies lays out a series of steps that must be taken, including photographic documentation of the existing landscape, as well as interpretative signs. The agreement was signed in late April.

Mayor Dave Norris, who has consistently voted against the road, said he will ask city councilors on Monday night if they agree with him that VDOT should not move forward with the road project until there is a final resolution on the interchange.

“I am of the firm belief that the interchange, McIntire Road Extended and [the county’s portion of the] Meadow Creek Parkway are part and parcel of the same project, despite the contortions that the city, county and VDOT have perpetrated over the years to give the appearance that they’re three separate projects,” Norris said in an email to Charlottesville Tomorrow.

“At some point soon we will see if the court agrees,” Norris said.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board officially awarded a $3.37 million contract in April to Key Construction of Clarksville to build the road. The project’s original construction estimate was for $5.58 million.

The permit, which was signed on Wednesday, is valid for seven years. VDOT now has the authority to tell Key Construction to proceed with the project.

The permit specifically authorizes VDOT to route an unnamed tributary of Schenk’s Branch through a 136-foot-long box culvert. The permit also gives the Rivanna Water & Sewer Authority the ability to proceed with replacing a sewer interceptor that runs along Schenk’s Branch.

Meanwhile, Judge Norman K. Moon will hear a case later this year filed by the Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park against the Federal Highway Administration to block the interchange that will connect the parkway with the U.S. 250 Bypass.

City spokesman Ric Barrick said the city hopes to advertise the interchange project for construction by the end of the year. A federal earmark of $27 million will be used to pay for the project, though no final cost estimate has been made public.

The Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park is suing the FHWA for violating federal law when it issued a finding that the interchange would have no significant impact on the environment.

The coalition’s legal brief claims there were valid alternatives to using park land that were not given full consideration. The group also claims the parkway and the interchange were illegally segmented into three projects to evade greater federal scrutiny.

The group has suggested it also might file an injunction to block construction of the road through the park. Efforts to reach coalition members were unsuccessful Friday.

The coalition’s request for injunction to stop the county’s construction of the road was dismissed by Judge Jay Swett in March 2009. Swett also ruled that the City Council’s June 2008 vote to grant VDOT temporary and permanent construction easements for city-owned land in the county was valid. The Virginia Supreme Court decided against hearing the coalition’s appeal of that ruling.

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