COVER SIDEBAR- Longer shot: Eastern Connector faces objections


One of three possible routes for the Eastern Connector cuts through Pen Park.

It's no secret how Sarah Hendley feels about the Eastern Connector. She wears her feelings on a sandwich board to City Market, where she's collected over 1,600 signatures against the proposed road that would traverse Pen Park to tie Pantops to U.S. 29 north.


"I feel passionately about our parks," says Hendley, a resident of River Run, a subdivision at the entrance to the park– since 1991, "especially our best park."

Three possible routes are being considered in what some see as the eastern version of the western bypass, and Hendley thinks the most likely would go through Pen Park.

Like some who oppose the Meadowcreek Parkway, Hendley points to federal law that forbids taking of parklands– particularly parks purchased with federal funds, as Pen Park was– unless there is no other feasible alternative. "And there is," she says.

City Councilor Kevin Lynch disagrees. "There's already a road through that park. All this is putting in is a bridge."

Hendley laughs when told why Lynch favors putting the connector through the park. "That's a totally different type of road than the Eastern Connector," which will carry 30,000 cars a day, she says. 

She has persuaded three-quarters of the owners of River Run's 411 units to sign her petition. And Hendley doesn't object to the Eastern Connector as long as it stays away from Pen Park. 

"They have no qualms about a road through McIntire Park," Lynch says. "That points out a whole lot of hypocrisy and NIMBY-ism."

He acknowledges that building the Eastern Connector is a tougher sell than other roads like Berkmar Drive Extended or a developer-built road between Avon and Fifth streets.

"It's interesting how those NIMBY neighbors pose as environmentalists when a new road is nearby," says Lynch. "Remember the James River spiny mussel?" he asks about the aquatic life form that was said to be threatened by the path of the western 29 bypass over the Rivanna Reservoir. "Yet they don't seem to worry about the Ragged Mountain Reservoir under I-64."

Hendley is undeterred. She'll be at upcoming forums on November 28 and 29 on the Eastern Connector. And next spring, she plans to don her sandwich board again when the City Market opens.