Our own Meadow Creek Parkway project (also using names such as Meadowcreek Parkway, McIntire Road Extended, Route 250 Interchange at McIntire Road) seems to have some similarities to the now famous 'Bridge to Nowhere' federal ear-marked project in Alaska. It is more than the confusion about what to call the project (or if it is one project or three projects) that keeps my head spinning.
Scott Weaver adds some interesting news to the parkway story in his story "County Backs Taxes for Transportation" in the August 7, 2007 issue of C-ville Weekly. Construction of an eastern connector road between northern and eastern albemarle is one of the conditions city council has on constructing the city portion of the parkway through McIntire Park and officially known as McIntire Road Extended. Weaver quotes Albemarle Supervisor Dennis Rooker as saying "We have an interest in pursuing transportation projects in the interest of the county and the city." Rooker adds "That project [the eastern connector] is being pursued largely at the request of the city."
Interesingly, in other recent actions relating to an eastern connector project, the city and county have each committed $250,000. toward hiring a consultant to do preliminary engineering of a possible eastern connector. Both city and county have jointly established a steering committee to guide this project. I have always been surprised that the city is funding this roadway at all in that the entire eastern connector would be in the county. Clearly the city has interest in pursuing a connector, but without the county support this project will likely not move forward anytime soon.
I have been involved in the parkway discussion for about ten years now, and am convinced that an eastern connector shouldn't be constructed as a condition for building a parkway through McIntire Park, but as an alternative. I have suggested, and would explore as a member of council, that McIntire Road and the Route 250 Interchange projects be combined into one project and that this combined project, and eastern connector, and other transit or roadway alternatives be considered as alternative solutions to meeting the regional traffic demands among northern Albemarle, eastern Albemarle, and downtown Charlottesille. I believe the approximately $30 million in funds available for the interchange could be programmed toward whatever the optimal solution would be - even if the current interchange was not part of the solution. Just as in the "Bridge to Nowhere" case where the ear-marked money was reprogrammed to use on other projects in Alaska, these funds could likely be reprogrammed as well.
The parkway project that was originally conceived in the 1960's has not moved forward and I believe for good reason. It is not a very good solution to our regional transportation needs in the future. I believe it is long past time to explore some new alternatives and use the resources available to our region on our future needs as viewed from 2007, not from th 1960's.