Traffic wars: Resident claims city harassment

Marianne McKernan has never recovered from the Park Street bridge being closed for repairs last summer and the increased traffic it brought through her Locust Grove neighborhood.

Now she's considering the sale of her house on the corner of Calhoun Street and St. Charles Avenue, claiming harassment from the city of Charlottesville, "specifically the police," she says.

Though the bridge has reopened, McKernan says a lot of people learned to use her street as a shortcut and are still whizzing by her house.

In trying to slow cars down, she alleges she's received bad advice from city employees– twice– and ended up with a ticket and the police at her door.

She says a former city traffic engineer advised her that parked cars calm traffic and suggested she park on the street, despite the "no parking" signs.

Fearful that her vehicles would get hit, she resisted that idea until last month. She parked her two cars on Calhoun, and on April 24, she got a parking ticket on one of them.

McKernan appealed the ticket, and a city parking officer, Janet C. Carson, came by April 26 and allegedly said that because the driveway interrupted the no parking zone that it was okay for her to park on the street, according to McKernan.

Officer Carson does not remember advising McKernan. "We answer so many calls, it's hard to remember them all," she says.

A week later, two police officers showed up at McKernan's door around 9pm and told her she had to move the cars. "To come out and see two big police officers is kind of scary," says the single mother.

She told the two officers, who had showed up after receiving an anonymous complaint about the cars, "I wasn't going to move them."

And she wonders, "Why are they acting on an anonymous tip from someone who might not even live in the city? Why aren't they protecting my rights to live peacefully?"

"I believe there was a misunderstanding," says an assistant city traffic engineer who insists her name not be published. "We would not advise parking on the street" as a traffic calming measure.

As for the parking officer who said McKernan could park on the street despite the no parking sign, Sgt. Ronnie Roberts of the Charlottesville police says that information wasn't right either, and that no parking signs are enforced to the next intersection, regardless of driveways in between.

"My recommendation to her for the time being is not to park there until she receives a recommendation from the engineering office," says Roberts.

"I feel she's a target for harassment because she speaks her mind about traffic," says neighbor Kim Malone, who notes that cars down the street were also parked under no parking signs but escaped ticketing.

Since McKernan complained about traffic last year, people come to the intersection in front of her house and lay on the horn, even if it's 4am, says Malone. "But they're hurting other people, too, like me."

And she observes that a lot of people using her street as a shortcut are from Gordonsville or Ruckersville.

"This is what we pay our taxes for?" says Malone. "And people who don't even live in the area are getting away with honking."

McKernan has asked for speed bumps, and says city engineering won't do that because the street is a connector. "The city did this in the first place," fumes McKernan.

One small bright spot for McKernan in an otherwise dismal traffic situation: The parking ticket review board dismissed her April 24 ticket.

Victim of questionable advice from the city, Marianne McKernan is ready to move from a street that's become a cut-through.