Friday, July 6, 2007

Council Loses its Way on the Interchange

At the July 2, 2007 Charlottesville city council meeting, council approved a "recommended preferred alternative" for the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road. How vague is that? What does that mean?

I have been involved in this project as an interested citizen stakeholder since its inception and I am curious who is actually pushing this project ahead of the development of the full range of project design alternative.

Council was asked by staff to select a recommended preferred design alternative for the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road from a set of several alternatives developed by the RK&K consultants and considered by the project steering committee. This set of alternatives is not complete! In fact, at least two additional park avoidance alternatives are yet to be developed by the consultants to meet the federal section 4(f) parkland protection requirement.

The consultant prepared a white paper entitled "Applicability of Section 4(f) to the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road (IMR) Project" in the past month or two stating that "as required by Section 4(f), the project team will evaluate alternatives that avoid the use of Section 4(f) resources. The alternatives evaluation will look at alignment and design shifts that avoid use to all resources (i.e. “total” avoidance) as well as avoidance of specific resources."

I question the appropriateness of council selecting any alternative from an incomplete set of alternatives - be it 'preferred', 'recommended preferred' or whatever. The consultant claimed at the council meeting that these alternatives have been considered to some degree, but are following a totally separate review process and will not be made available until in the fall at the earliest for public review. So, why is council selecting now? Is council leading here, or are they following proponents of a more limited choice of design alternatives?

I suggested in my comment to council that it will only be appropriate to take any action of this type after the consultants prepare the environmental assessment document as required by NEPA, and the section 4(f) analysis as required under the U. S. Department of Transportation Act of 1966, and an opportunity for the public to review and comment on the full set of options is provided.

Only Councilor Norris understood the folly of selecting any alternative before all of the necessary candidate designs are even available for consideration.

Council recommended alternative C1 by a vote of 4-1 (Councilor Norris the only no-vote).

I encourage all interested Charlottesville and Albemarle County residents to visit the project website at to see details of the project.

No comments: