What if the Meadowcreek Parkway didn’t exist?

It’s just a question.

There have been countless (at least a few thousand) stories written about the Meadowcreek Parkway over the years. What if the community was able to think of a brand-new transportation solution, not bound by the vestiges of 40-year-old (plus) thinking?

Would ‘they’ design the Meadowcreek Parkway now?

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  1. JoshC May 8, 2008 at 07:49

    Not if a real Eastern Connector was in the cards. But since it’s not, we’re stuck with half measures.

  2. Scott May 8, 2008 at 08:39

    I think the traffic demand for the eastern connector is there, and a “true” eastern connector is really needed. However, the need for a limited access N-S arterial is also just as real. Carter Myers and his “Business 29” lobby have successfully managed to turn 29N from the 250-bypass up to Ruckersville into one giant strip-mall parking lot. The demand for a free-flowing N-S connection is greater than the need to get from the northside to the east side of town. Just building an eastern connector won’t alleviate the load on 29.

    If I were benevolent dictator for a day, I’d insist on the Meadowcreek, but extend it at least to Proffit Rd, ideally to Ruckersville. I’d insist on limited access with one GSE for the main arterial at each subdivision. If my budget weren’t limited, I’d run an eastern connector from the Meadowcreek where it crosses Rio Rd out between Dunlora and River Run and then up behind Fontana to 250E.

    The problem is, we’d really need another GSE on 64 or 250 – it’s the profusion of business “driveways” and traffic lights that really clog everything up. Traffic moves in lock-step like big marching cadres from light to light, and it kills both throughput (even moreso speed) and drives up congestion and emissions.

    The really sad part of all this is: a reworking of our existing transportation corridors to make them limited access – expressway lanes down the center and access lanes on the outside – would solve our problem. If 29N weren’t so badly clogged and 250 from Free Bridge to 64 wasn’t either, then we’d have ample access without building any new roads.

  3. Dave Phillips May 8, 2008 at 15:23

    How about if we not allow 40 years of conversation and stalling tactics. Maybe MC Parkway made sense 40 years ago – I think it still does make sense for relieving congestion on Park and other neighborhood roads. I’d be willing to come up with a new plan that made the most sense, but I’m not willing to wait another 40 years for a 2 mile road to get built.

  4. DaveNorris May 8, 2008 at 21:03

    Good question, Jim.

    The Meadowcreek Parkway was conceived at a time when cities all across the country were convinced that building automobile expressways through their city centers (requiring entire neighborhoods to be leveled in some cases) was the best way to facilitate the free flow of commuter traffic to & from the suburbs and thereby try and preserve some semblance of economic vitality in their downtown areas. I think the Charlottesville experience shows that there are ways to sustain downtown vitality without a cross-town expressway (which is precisely what the Meadowcreek Parkway/McIntire Rd./Ridge St./5th Street Extended is designed to become, albeit with a highly congested choke point at Ridge & Main). And as more time goes by we are getting even smarter in Charlottesville about how to promote the long-term economic health and quality of life of our downtown area — note the hundreds of new residential units in the pipeline within blocks of the Downtown Mall, expanded emphasis on pedestrian-oriented development, continued investment in our urban infrastructure, major improvements to our parks, efforts to build a much more user-friendly and efficient transit system (to include a major “park-and-ride” component at the peripheries of the system to help de-clog our thoroughfares), strategies for promoting “green” living and “green” building, preservation and promotion of affordable workforce housing in the urban core, etc. I would argue that these are the 21st century answers to the discredited pipedream of automobile-centric urban renewal; I would further argue that from this vantage point, the Meadowcreek Parkway — which will pave over a huge portion of our largest City park in order to facilitate the flow of thousands of additional north-south commuters each day through our City streets — is more than just a quaint relic, it’s a huge (and hugely expensive) step backwards for our City. And yet, all signs are that we’re about to take that step anyway.

    Many people say that we’ve been talking about this road for 40 years and it’s time to just get it built. I would say that we’ve been talking about it for 40 years and it’s time to change the terms of the conversation. A whole lot has changed in 40 years about the way we understand urban design and vitality. Let’s not assume that just because something sounded appealing 40 years ago, it still is the best answer for our community.

    Thanks as always Jim for providing a thoughtful forum for comment and debate.

    Dave Norris

  5. Stratton Salidis May 12, 2008 at 02:08

    Probably the idea for this road came even a little before the 40 year mark. I can hear important people talking about the concept in the late fifties, at least a few years before 1962 – “if only we could find somewhere for those poor people in Vinegar Hill…… “

    Are we done with expressways though downtowns and urban “renewal” or just more subtle now? Yes the Parkway has slimed down to two lanes (though we know how the lanes tend to come back on after a commitment). Nonetheless, it would inject more cars into the city, allowing residents to be displaced not only by newcomers, but by drivers.
    I don’t think that’s going to happen though.

    At this point the question is not why hasn’t it been built, but why are we still
    talking about it? It’s mostly because people who have money to make from it, hire other people to mislead the public and promote or pester officials. As a result, many folks have some ridiculous notions about the MCP. However, more questions are being asked, and, like hot dogs, the more one knows about the Parkway the less appetizing it seems. First of all, the Parkway would increase traffic in Charlottesville on opening day. Nobody with the facts contests this. Road proponents say studies show it would decrease traffic in the Charlottesville area, meaning parts of Park st. and 29, but this relief would not last long, and the rest of the city would suffer for it. And for this road though our central park, Charlottesville would be spending millions of dollars out of it’s urban transportation fund which could otherwise be spent on transit.

    City Council has not approved, and is in no way obligated to build this monster. The Cities conditions – particularly those demanding a 29 bypass, and then when the Co. bailed on that one, an Eastern connector – have simply not been met. Another condition, a grade separated interchange at 250 is to be paid for with Federal money which comes with environmental and historic protection laws the last City Council evaded applying to the Parkway itself (in addition to the interchange) by pretending the road is already built.
    This stance is not likely to hold up in court, which would result in the withdrawing of Federal funds. Also, the VA. Constitution mandates a supermajority vote for the sale of city public land, so if only 3 of the 5 City Councilors do vote for this road, their decision has no legitimacy.

    The real purpose of the Parkway is to make sprawl (auto dependant growth) more profitable. Sprawl is a known killer. Instead we should encourage better development of existing urban areas with investments in walking biking and transit. An excellent start would be the Meadowcreek Bikeway along with a pedestrian bridge across rt. 250. With the removal of just two more auto – lanes, suddenly this becomes a project just about everyone can get behind.

    Thank goodness for Dave Norris and Holly Edwards.

    Sincerely, Stratton Salidis

    p.s. Mr. Dave Phillips, would you like to meet on a radio show and discuss the MCP, for the education, or at least amusement of the general public?

  6. Jim Duncan May 12, 2008 at 07:15

    Plodding forward in the belief that doing otherwise will lead to another 40+ years of stalling, delaying and inaction is both absolutely justified and understandable.

    Our community has a long and storied history of not doing much of anything with regards to roads, the exception being the North Grounds Connector Road (and here) – where government was specifically not involved.

    But …

    What if we were to “think different?”

    Consumers’ driving and home-buying patterns are changing, and with the prospect of artificially cheap gas heading over the horizon, consumers likely will continue making these decisions.

    If we were to advocate for a transportation solution today, what would it be?

    Dave, Dave and Stratton – how can we deal with not just those commuting within the city (bikes) but with those who commute into the city – who currently use cars?

    (and thank you all for the insightful comments)

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  8. Lonnie February 20, 2009 at 12:50

    As a commutor, here are my suggestions:

    1) Make riding a bus faster, more convenient and easier than driving a care. Here’s your metric… Pretend I’m a doctor. Would you feel comfortable with me taking the bus to the hospital if you were in the ER and needed to see me? How about if the medical record system went down? Would you be comfortable with person responsible for that server parking at U-hall and waiting for the next available bus? To achieve this goal consider setting aside special lanes for mass transit (instead of continuing to expand lanes on 29)

    2) Redevelop/retrofit existing shopping centers. Take some of those seas of cars on 29, like Albemarle Square and Seminole Square and retrofit them to be mixed use and walkable. Instead of building further and futher out down 29, encourage developers to take existing properties and build them up. Include parking garages (or underground parking) so that people park and then get out and walk (instead of driving across the shoping center because it is too dangerous to walk). For a good model of this look at Columbia Maryland, or closer to home, the downtown mall or the corner. Why not build on 29 like we do downtown? (Few could argue that the model has been economically unviable).

    3) Create more quality greenspace, so that people like myself don’t have to live 25 minutes away to experience Nature.

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