Tuesday, October 2, 2007

City Council's Leadership Vacuum on McIntire Road Extended Evident at Council Meeting

City council again showed little in the way of leadership toward achieving our communities vision for the future in considering item 2 on the October 1, 2007 council agenda - listed as a public hearing and ordinance "Granting Construction Easement to VDOT for McIntire Road Extended (1st of 2 readings)." Although little, if any progress on the issues discussed by council in resolving parkland replacement, stormwater management, stream protection, development of an eastern connector, and other issues discussed at the July 16, 2007 council meeting (minutes of this discussion available here), the item was considered again. To my suprise, and to the surprise of many others, council actually granted this easment with a number of conditions similar to conditions already in effect as included in a council letter to VDOT dated January 18, 2006. Councilor Norris stated clearly his opposition to the McIntire Road Extended project but joined all of the other councilors in supporting the easement resolution with the added conditions. I am uncertain what the effect of this decision will have beyond adding yet more confusion to this already confusing project. I wonder if VDOT will even agree to the as-passes easement agreement with the added conditions. It appears to be more of an easement disagreement to me. [NOTE: at the council meeting this item was announced to be a resolution rather than an ordinance as advertised and that action did not require two readings. I believe this misadvertisement eliminated a significant opportunity for the public to provide input on the proposed agreement as modified by council prior to council action.]

Seth Rosen's October 2, 2007 headline article in the Daily Progress - "Council takes action on parkway" - suffered some of the same problems as the discussion by council. Due to likely last minute production issues at the Daily Progress, only the first three paragraphs and part of the fourth were printed. The online story is complete, so you will have to read it online. Like so many of the discussions about this project over its history, much relevant and essential material to the viability of the project were not available.

The McIntire Road Extended project development is not yet ready for commitment of right-of-way. Granting of a construction easement to VDOT of this type for roadway construction is not even a common practice. The VDOT project development process indicates that preliminary engineering should be complete before right-of way is acquired - and without stormwater management or workable intersection designs preliminary engineering is not complete.

I asked the city's VDOT project coordinator, and VDOT project staff if VDOT has ever stated that the McIntire Road Extended project design was declared to be a workable design that meets the stated project purpose and need and ready to move beyond preliminary engineering. I have not yet been provided any such statement and am not confident that this important conclusion could even be determined given the current missing design elements. I question the leadership of our current council in moving forward (if this action is a forward movement) a project that may not even meet its own design goals. The McIntire Road Extended project includes an at-grade intersection at route 250 bypass - a design that has been demonstrated to operate at failing level of service in all through and turning motions when the facility opens. Moving this project forward demonstrates no council leadership at all to me.

Moving this project forward in its current state is also inconsistent with our city's goal of becoming a sustainable city. We need to reprogram our McIntire Road Extended funds toward expanded transit, bicycle, and pedestrian projects if we will ever expect to become a sustainably developed city. New leadership is needed, and we all need to demand it from our current and future city councilors.

I am committed to moving forward only projects consistent with our city's goals and vision for the future. I am convinced that the McIntire Road Extended project is not one of the projects that will move us in that direction.

Seth Rosen's article closes with the following: "But Morgan Perkins, owner of Sage Moon Gallery, summed up the thoughts of parkway supporters, and, apparently, the council:"

'How long can we study something before we make a decision?'

My answer would be: At least long enough to develop all of the essential designs and impacts of those designs necessary to make a responsible decision. We are clearly not there yet. Decisions need to be bases on sufficient infomration - not the passage of time.

1 comment:

DaveNorris said...

Peter, I applaud you for speaking out with a clear and consistent voice about the myriad problems posed by this road. While I was willing to support a re-drafting of easement conditions to encourage greater regional investment in transit, bike and pedestrian improvements versus a single-minded focus on more and more asphalt, I remain opposed to the Meadowcreek Parkway and believe it to be a bad deal for our community -- for many of the same reasons you've articulated (better than I) in your Sierra Club survey and elsewhere. Thanks for your diligence on this important issue.

Dave Norris