Gateway project: 250 Bypass Interchange project underway

After more than four decades of planning, the head of the $50 million traffic improvement monster we've long known as the Meadow Creek Parkway, the Route 250 Bypass interchange, is finally being built after the city granted permission for construction to begin on March 4.

"I like to think that it will improve safety and add multimodal access where there currently is

none," says City of Charlottesville Development Manager Angela Tucker, describing the complexity of the project that will include an overpass and increased pedestrian, bike and vehicle accessibility to McIntire Park and the Hillcrest/Birdwood neighborhood.

Indeed, as Tucker points out, the number of critical accidents at the intersection are  three times the state average, and with the entrance to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad center right there, there's "a lot happening at the intersection." As part of the Interchange project, the rescue squad entrance will be moved between the Bypass and Harris Street. 

First proposed by the Virginia Department of Transportation in 1967, the two-mile Parkway will snake its way from Rio Road to the intersection of Route 250 and McIntire Road, speeding traffic downtown and providing an alternate route for drivers hoping to avoid Route 29 North. The County's portion, from Rio to Melbourne Road, is already complete, while the City's portion, from Melbourne to the Interchange at 250, is expected to be finished in 2015, according to Tucker.

The Interchange will allow traffic on 250 to flow uninterrupted past the intersection of 250 and McIntire Road, courtesy of an overpass, while a lighted intersection beneath the overpass will connect McIntire with the Parkway, and provide on and off-ramp access to 250.

Studies on the Parkway and the Interchange began in 1979, and since then it's been the subject of vehement opposition including lawsuits filed to block its construction. It was eventually pushed along by $33 million in federal funds that former Senator John Warner (R-VA) had earmarked for the project in 2005. His efforts convinced the county to rename their portion of the road in his honor.

Although construction on the interchange isn't yet visible from McIntire Road, the signs that it's happening are there: the Charlottesville Skate Park as been temporarily relocated to a small spot at the entrance of the McIntire Golf Course, where it will eventually expand to cover the two acres that now are home to the McIntire wading pool and adjacent playground.

In addition to improved pedestrian and bicycle access to the park and nearby neighborhoods, what's officially being referred to as a "Gateway Project" will also feature a mile-and-half of new trails, extension of the Schenk's Greenway trail to the park, improved access to the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad center [Hallelujah!], preservation of the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial, and hundreds of new trees, shrubs, and improved landscaping.

Also, a paved, 10-foot wide bike and pedestrian trail that runs parallel to the Parkway is scheduled to be completed this spring, making a commute from neighborhoods along Rio to downtown not just possible but pleasant. There's also an approved plan to build a pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the he Norfolk-Southern railroad in McIntire Park.

During the construction phase, McIntire Road lanes may be shifted, according to Tucker, as will access to 250, but officials say that all traffic routes along McIntire Road and 250 will remain open.

It may sound good on paper, but opponents of the Parkway and the Interchange maintain it's a waste of money, and will actually make our traffic situation worse.

"Whenever you build a new highway you induce more people to drive more times more places and you very quickly use up all the new capacity while creating new congestion somewhere else and, hence, more demand for more road capacity," says Randy Salzman, a Charlottesville-based transportation researcher.

As Salzman points out, numerous studies have shown that for every 10 percent of capacity a new roadway creates, there's an almost immediate four percent increase in traffic. Within five years that traffic increase typically reaches 10 percent, Salzman says, creating the traffic congestion the road project was designed to relieve.

What's more, Salzman expects any traffic easing at 250 and McIntire Road to create additional congestion a mile or so down the road at the Free Bridge intersection,where there is a bottleneck problem that can already back traffic up all the way up Pantops Mountain and beyond.  

"This is what the history shows happening again and again," says Salzman. "That bottleneck becomes the next grand project as it's seemingly worse than the old bottleneck. This is the bottom line: the more you spend trying to build your way out of congestion the worse you make congestion."

However, as Tucker points out, while traffic is likely to grow, the Interchange is not a "capacity" project designed to reduce traffic flow, but more of a safety project designed to make the intersection less dangerous.

Of course, now that the monster has come to life, all we can do is wait and see.

Note: A community information/question and answer session will be held on March 14 from 5-7:00pm at Charlottesville High School, designed to brief people about the construction activities and the timeline of the project.


If the residents don't want to build roads then they need to emminent domain all the vacant properties yet to be developed and turn them into parks. Roads should be designed for ultimate infill of vacant lots and not patchwork after patchwork for the next phase.

Remember the people who whose undeveloped lots bought them with the intention of developing them, and those empty lots have been paying property taxes for over a hundred years without consuming anything. They not only have the right to expect infrastucture but they have paid for that right the same as anyone else who bullt anything.

Hurry up and bury this story before the hippies wake up and start their day!

What people should be up-in-arms about is not the construction of the parkway but the fact that it has a 45 mph speed limit.

Thank Jesus, and only 45 years after it was suggested. Probably a record for any non-hippie granola feelgood project in the City.

Yeah, so Angela is hottie. Just saying.

I've dealt with her in person numerous time Jimi, nothing could be further from the truth.

As a Park Street resident, I look forward to this finally going to construction. I except a significant decrease in Park Street traffic after construction (specifically at the Park Street-250 Interchange).

And the speed limit is 35 mph on the roadway, not 45 mph.

I wish they would've interviewed some of the many people who live on Park Street (like the commenter above) who have to deal with the traffic, whose lives will be much better once this project is finally complete in 2015.

And while I'm happy the County did its half with minimal whining (unlike the city), they have also approved beaucoup development along Rio Rd (Dunlora Forest, et al) that is going to make it worse.

It is the same situation as we see along Old Lynchburg Rd- the County allows upmteen condo complexes and leaves the City to deal with the overcrowded roads (in that case, by passive-aggressively replacing the JPA bridge over 18 months...)

Happy Resident, do you not see all that is being built to the North of you on Park St.? There is much more to come. Those of you who helped urge the Parkway along because you thought you would get some traffic relief have fallen for a scam. You won't see any reduction in the numbers because Park St. will still be their preferred route to Downtown. Cut through traffic headed toward Pantops on North Ave. will still plague you as well. Any time the traffic numbers do drop because some are going the Parkway route, that will immediately make anyone who thinks they are smarter than the masses choose to take Park in an attempt to get a slight edge no matter which way they are headed.

As the numbers on both routes increase due to poor planning in the rest of the system (by that I mean both the road network and the mass transit challenging new developments that are currently being built) the bypass will become clogged and the next thing we will hear will be calls for its widening. Doubt that? Well then you aren't looking at what's already happening to the system. Traffic headed towards Pantops already backs up past Locust during peak hours and the off ramp to Hydraulic regularly backs up past the Dairy Road bridge (the whale tail location). It won't be long until traffic is so bad at times that those two lines reach each other.

This road is not a solution to any problem, and sadly, it is going to cost us a park and many millions to see that proven.

"And the speed limit is 35 mph on the roadway, not 45 mph."

That's even more of a travesty. Thanks City of Charlottesville!

I see the development on Rio Road (it is no longer Park Street after Melbourne). I am not a fan, but it isn't the bane of my existance.

Us vs. them? We all live here. Our infrastructure isn't perfect, but as a society we are working on making improvements. If you don't like what is proposed, then offer a realistic solution. Let it be debated, but ultimately a vote will be taken and a decision needs to be made. Infrastructure is a work in progress.

People live here because this is a great area. People visit here because this is a great area. People work here because this is a great area. We want it to continue to be a great area and that means more people will continue to transplant here.

And many more residents will explore the eastern portion of McIntire Park now that there is a trail. And the new memorial modifications are going to look really nice. The sky isn't falling, we are just getting a new interchange, road, and pedestrian walkway for an existing crappy intersection.

finally, we will all have a thneed

In the end this will be a good project and no one will be nostalgic for the old crappy intersection.

Remember the people protesting the "Monster" parking garage on Ivy, and how it was going to bring in vast amounts of new traffic and ruin the quality of their lives? A complete non-event.

Nothing crappy about the old intersection. It has worked fine all these years. I have always opposed the whole meadowcreek parkway concept, yet oddly, on the one or two times I have tried it, because I still prefer Park street, and will continue to use that, I found myself wondering why did they make the road so, so tiny and narrow? Even I, a devout road opponent, think they made a mistake building something so undersized.

More roads = more options.
Creative commuters like me are happy.

All of you jumping up and down about the Parkway really are not good students of history are you? Ever take a gander of Nova? You think a few additional roads helped their congestion troubles? Of course not, it just made it easier for developers to develop - you know, allowed the rent seekers Bill Marshall is talking about collect their returns.

I have lots of sympathy for folks in residential areas who find that both the county and the city have ignored the impact of traffic in their neighborhoods while pushing foolish development for tax revenues. But I find those impacted just as short sited.

We had an opportunity to have smarter development that is more friendly to better forms of transit than being slaves to cars. You live on Park Street? You should be able to do cost of your shopping on foot or using a scooter. You shouldn't need your car. The fact that you feel you do, is a sign that the city has not developed correctly. If you live in Belmont, the same thing. What does the city do? Try and bring the traffic into the city.

The Parkway was a bad idea because it won't solve any of the problems it was intended to. We need a real bypass and access to 29N from the Pantops area to move that traffic.