Monday, August 27, 2007

JPA Bridge should respect neighborhood character

Seth Rosen's August 27, 2007 article in the Daily Progress entitled "New JPA bridge urged" clearly indicates that Charlottesville's neighborhoods should be included in neighborhood impacting decisions from the very beginning of a project. Including neighborhoods in city decision making is one of the four main issues I am focusing on in my city council campaign and Rosen's article shows how not including the neighborhood in the early planning of the bridge project appears to have delayed replacement of this substandard bridge by 18 months or more.

I was aware of the JPA bridge project being designed back in about 1996 when I worked as an environmental engineer with VDOT. Had the Fry's Springs neighborhood been included in the early designs for this bridge, perhaps this bridge would be under construction by now rather than needing to be redesigned to be acceptable to the community.

If elected to city council on November 6, I will do all in my power to ensure early neighborhood involvement in developing any project that will potentially affect the quality of life, connectivity, safety, or other neighborhood concern. Early - and continuing - involvement of the neighborhood can lead to better solutions and likely be completed in less time and at lower development cost. In this case, the neighborhood preferred 54-foot-wide bridge design will likely be significantly less expensive to build than the VDOT designed 78-foot-wide bridge, even with a temporary pedestrian and bicycle bridge included to permit pedestrian and bicycle access during construction.

The city has within the past few years become the lead agency, not VDOT, for transportation projects within the city limits under the Virginia First Cities Initiative of 2004. The city can now adopt a policy to include neighborhood representation on all future transportation projects. I will work toward developing such a policy and requiring that all planning and design materials be made readily available to the public so all interested parties can provide constructive and informed input from preliminary project design through construction. A policy of this type would be both a win for neighborhoods in better realizing their neighborhood goals, and a win for the city by getting better designs in less time, and in cases like the JPA bridge, at a significantly lower cost.

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