No biggie: Letter doesn't stop Meadowcreek Parkway
A four-paragraph July 16 letter from the Army Corps of Engineers to the Virginia Department of Transportation had Meadowcreek Parkway opponents giddy that the controversial connector will be derailed.
"In order for us to continue our evaluation of the McIntire Road Extension, the work must be a single and complete project with a logical termini," writes the Corps.
The parkway is divided into three portions that are separately funded: Albemarle's along East Rio Road, construction of which has already begun, and the city has two segments, the state-funded McIntire Road Extension that cuts through McIntire Park, and the $29.5 million, federally funded earmark that former Senator John Warner obtained for the interchange with the Route 250 Bypass.
Critics have long contended that the parkway is structured that way to bypass federal regulations that protect historic properties.
"We're elated," says Coalition to Preserve McIntire Park member Rich Collins. "We've dealt with this for years and said you can't do it this way. It's all one project."
Collins calls the Army Corps letter "highly unusual" for a minor project– a culvert over a tributary of Schenks Branch south of Melbourne Road. "It's a federal agency reprimanding a state agency," he opines.
"I'm optimistic," says fellow Coalition member Peter Kleeman. "It's one thing to ask for more information. It's another to generate a logical terminus."
"We're not denying a permit," stresses Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Mark Haviland. "We said it's incomplete. It's not unusual. We go back to applicants all the time."
Nor does the Corps believe that McIntire Extended is a road to nowhere. "VDOT has told us all along McIntire Extended ends at the interchange or Route 250," says Haviland.
He suggests that the letter has been interpreted differently from the way the Corps intended. "We're just asking for more information," says Haviland.
And to say the letter is a deal breaker? "That's a premature conclusion," he says. "We understand it's a contentious issue.
"We don't see it as a significant obstacle," says Lou Hatter, VDOT spokeman. "Anytime an agency is processing an application and needs more information, they send a letter to ask for it," he explains.
Parkway opponents remain optimistic that the Army Corps letter strengthens their cause. They're also using legal maneuvering to stop construction, although the first two forays– a preliminary injunction and lawsuit to stop construction on grounds an easement was unconstitutionally approved by City Council– were unsuccessful, they're ready for federal court now.
And Rich Collins has a suggestion for media coverage of the longstanding controversy: Instead of saying "when" the Meadowcreek Parkway is built, he prefers use of the more hypothetical "if."