I attended the 4:30 - 7:30 pm meeting of the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road Steering Committee yesterday (August 16, 2007) at the Senior Center to see how the RK&K engineering consultants were progressing on the preliminary engineering and design of this project. Colette Hall, President of North Downtown Residents Association, and I were the only two members of the general public in attendance (both the time and location make it hard for interested citizens to attend). Also, having a 3-hour meeting with no background material about the items to be discussed available beforehand is a deterrent to attendance by the public when their only opportunity to be involved in the meeting is to make a 2-minute comment at the very end of the meeting.
Both Colette Hall and I were surprise to learn that the consultants are suggesting removing key pedestrian and bicycle access elements of the project that would connect the North Downtown community to McIntire Park. This is very disconcerting given that providing pedestrian and bicycle access to the park is one of the key elements in the Purpose and Need statement for this project, and that RK&K engineers recently presented the importance of these connections to both the Charlottesville Planning Commission and the City Council prior to commission and council agreeing that the interchange project is consistent with the city's comprehensive plan.
You can visit the Slide Show presented by RK&K indicating the removal of pedestrian and bicycle access elements to see for yourself how difficult it would be for pedestrians to get from residential areas adjacent to the park into the park. Pedestrian would have a long walk (over a half mile) through some highly circuitous route and across or under a number of roads though what appears to be a quite unpleasant and noisy pedestrian environment and over some difficult terrain to get to the park area that is just across U.S. Route 250 Bypass from their neighborhood. The direct connection pedestrian bridge over Route 250 Bypass is eliminated in the new design on the basis of cost. Maybe the goal of providing pedestrian and bicycle access is not as important as it has been promoted by the project team previously.
With these changes, assuming they will remain this way in the future plans, I don't believe this project is consistent with the city's comprehensive plan, and I question the desirability of spending the $30 Million and more to construct this project if it does not satisfy the stated Purpose and Need.
Another startling item presented at this meeting is that the recently developed park master plan for McIntire Park now has to be redone because the plan was developed assuming a large water retention pond being in the park that would handle stormwater runoff from the McIntire Road Extended project (the portion of the Meadow Creek Parkway proposed to run though McIntire Park) can not be constructed in that it is not in compliance with federal standards. It appears that this whole project is in disarray.
Perhaps city council, the primary sponsor of this project, needs to revisit the Purpose and Need of the McIntire Road Extended project and the Route 250 Bypass Interchange at McIntire Road project and determine if the vast amounts of money and environmental impact on McIntire Park make good sense for whatever the benefits are that are anticipated. With $30 Million and more on the line and a major goal of the project being provision of pedestrian access to McIntire Park, why is it that in the current design - YOU CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE?