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City officials debate plans for parkway

Route 29 has major traffic problems, and several local leaders are hoping the controversial Meadowcreek Parkway will be part of the solution.

With the support of both Charlottesville and Albemarle County, the matter of approving the parkway now rests solely with the Commonwealth Transportation Board, a governor-appointed board that oversees all state transportation issues.

The Meadowcreek Parkway would be a two-mile road between Rio Road in Albemarle and Charlottesville's Route 250 bypass. In a 3-2 vote this July, City Council approved a plan to build the two-lane parkway with the space for expansion to four lanes if necessary, Councilman Maurice Cox said.

Last Wednesday the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors approved building a four-lane highway for their portion of the Meadowcreek Parkway.

Meadowcreek Parkway will cost Charlottesville and Albemarle County about $22 million, all of which comes directly from state transportation appropriations, said Jim Jennings, Virginia Department of Transportation spokesman.

The parkway now awaits approval from the CTB at their Sept. 16 meeting, said Carter Myers, CTB Culpeper District member and local resident.

Myers said he would recommend to the CTB a two-lane highway with the space to expand to four lanes in the future, and he said he anticipates CTB approval.

Gaining approval for the Meadowcreek Parkway could help mend traffic congestion problems facing the city and county.

"It's a road that's been needed for over 20 years," Councilman David Toscano said.

Martin called the Meadowcreek Parkway "the most important transportation need" of the area.

But Council's division reflects the controversy surrounding the parkway.

Cox, one of the two councilmen opposing the parkway, said this is not addressing the city's real problem, and will bring in a host of new problems.

"I oppose Meadowcreek Parkway because it seems that it is expected to carry an unfair burden of this area's traffic," Cox said.

Finding ways to make Route 29 more efficient would be better than building more roads, he said.

The city and county toyed with and eventually scrapped plans for creating interchanges on three major Route 29 intersections: Greenbriar, Rio and Hydraulic roads.

An interchange would replace stoplights with ramps, speeding up through-traffic.

"We've been in favor of doing these interchanges," said Charles S. Martin, Albemarle Board of Supervisors chairman.

However, building the interchanges would require commercial land.

The city would lose too much commercial real estate at the interchange proposed for Hydraulic Road, which lead to their failure in City Council, Toscano said.

After learning about the city's decision on the proposed interchange on Hydraulic, the CTB chose to not pursue interchanges in Albemarle, Myer said.

Another major disagreement of the Meadowbrook Parkway plan focuses on the highway going through the city's McIntire Park.

The new Parkway would cut off a multi-acre portion of the park, as well as introduce noise and vehicular pollution into the park, Cox said.

But Toscano said the parkway is designed for slower moving traffic, allowing tighter turns to be created that will save a larger portion of the park.

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