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March 18, 2009

City Council’s Meadowcreek Parkway opponents vote against appropriation

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The Charlottesville City Council has voted 3-2 to appropriate over $10 million in transportation funds from the Virginia Department of Transportation to the Meadowcreek Parkway project. The money represents nearly five years of urban roadway construction funds the City has received as part of a pilot program which gave more control to local officials. Councilors Dave Norris and Holly Edwards voted against the appropriation because of their opposition to the road which will cut through McIntire Park between Melbourne Road and the Route 250 bypass.

Jim Tolbert, the City’s Director of Neighborhood Development Services, said the City joined VDOT’s First Cities Initiative in May 2005. Under the arrangement, the City would manage projects with money provided by VDOT in a quarterly payment.

“Due to all the confusion encountered because it’s a new program, we had $10,353,701 that didn’t get appropriated,” Tolbert said. “This is essentially an act of balancing the checkbook.” Later, Tolbert added that from now on, he will bring the appropriation request before Council on an annual basis.
The money is earmarked for two City road priorities. Approximately one-fifth ($2,345,667) will go to the Hillsdale Drive Extended project with the remaining going to the Meadowcreek Parkway interchange ($8,008,034) at the Route 250 bypass. 

Mayor Norris said he thought the money for the Meadowcreek Parkway could be used elsewhere.
“Even though I know this is a house-keeping matter, I’d love to see those dollars reallocated elsewhere,” Norris said. Councilor David Brown asked if that were possible. Tolbert said that with some action, some of the money for Hillsdale could be redirected elsewhere, but that the money for the interchange comes from the $27 million federal earmark secured by former Senator John Warner (R-VA).  If Council chose to not proceed with that project, the money would have to be given back to VDOT.  Tolbert added that some of the money has already been spent on preliminary engineering.

The Capital Improvement Program budget contains a line item of $450,000 to serve as the City’s match for federal and state funding. In December 2008, the Planning Commission voted to recommend moving that money to sidewalk construction and maintenance. Council will consider the CIP at a budget work session on Tuesday, March 24.

Sean Tubbs

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