Meadowcreek Debate: Lynch Responds

City Council Kevin Lynch, after reviewing the two recent discussions about the renewed Meadowcreek Parkway debate (“Meadowcreek Debate Gets Weird,” “Lynch Clarifies Meadowcreek Parkway Opposition“), has taken the time to address many of the concerns raised by cvillenews.com users, and compiled those thoughts into a single document, complete with extensive documentation going back several years. Keep reading for the full text of Lynch’s comments.

I’ve been meaning to check out this site for a while. Glad I got here when I did. Jeez, this is a tough audience. Lots of County commuters by the looks of it. A lot of good questions though, which I will do my best to address.

Trying to cure traffic congestion by adding more capacity is like trying to cure obesity by loosening your belt followed by the counter argument Constriction in the waistline does not cause obesity. It is a symptom of obesity…You need to diet and exercise, or otherwise cure the underlying cause of the obesity, sure – but for now you also need to buy some bigger pants.

Traffic congestion is building up in the region, no doubt about it. Cville is getting press for being a good place to live and people are moving here in droves. Most are living outside of the City. Providing so the new people can travel around without creating congestion for the people already living here is a major challenge.

Much depends on where the newcomers live. The County is growing with mostly new housing in the South, mostly new retail in the North and a mix of the two in the East. I agree with those who say that we need to loosen the belt around the City. Building the parkway is more like unzipping your fly.

If it is time to loosen the belt, then I am absolutely convinced that we need to start with a series of connector roads in the urban ring of the County. Yes, I realize that this is outside of City jurisdiction, but I don’t believe I’m the only one who’s noticed that the urban ring of the County is exploding in population and traffic. Unlike City residents who can and do use a variety of alternatives to the auto, the suburban and exurban residents must and do drive everywhere. I don’t begrudge them this (whether this is healthy in the long term is another matter) but I’m not willing to sacrifice quality of life in the City for their convenience.

Personally, I prefer a bicycle or the trolley, but if we must loosen up then the first notch in the belt should be a two lane “eastern connector” parkway, between Pantops and Rio Rd. That’s where the bulk of the new traffic is going. A new two lane road will take 20,000 cars a day off Pantops, the 250 bypass, Park/Rio, and to a lesser extent, Hydraulic. We could get started on the eastern connector in two months and have it built in three years, if we had the political will to do so.

The next notch is to complete the Southern Parkway between Avon street extended and 5th street extended. This provides Mill Creek, Lake Renovia, Lakeside, etc with quick access to Route 64 and the 250 Bypass, allowing them to move around the region without driving through the center of the City. It will take about 7000 trips a day off Avon street and going to points North (on High/Park St) and will help tremendously to decongest Downtown. When UVA builds the North Grounds connector, even more traffic will be diverted around the City. The Southern Parkway could also be started in two months and built in three years with political will.

Only then should we build the Meadowcreek Parkway, with a functioning interchange, on the 250 bypass. Everyone who has analyzed the traffic flow at the intersection realizes that it fails miserably if we try to do it with a traffic light. Does anyone want to create another intersection like the one at 29 and Hydraulic? We’re contemplating spending in excess of 50M dollars to retrofit the 29/Hydraulic intersection with an interchange. The traffic volumes are comparable to MCP/250. Better to do the intersection job up front, at half the cost or less.

Even if we do these three things within the next 5 years (achievable but a lot of work) we wont adequately addressed our regional and statewide traffic needs. The road network in the urban ring needs reinforcement everywhere, not just in the North East sector. Because the County has been focused on defeating the 29 Bypass, and doing little else, we have a 10 year infrastructure deficit in the region. We’ve already started to address the problems on Rt. 29 with the extension of Hillsdale drive between Hydraulic and Greenbrier, better light synchronization, and a redesign study for several major intersections. I am cautiously optimistic that we can accommodate the predicted increase of statewide traffic on 29 in a manner similar to Highway 101 in Santa Barbara, but it will take 5 to 10 years minimum.

I see no vision in these elected officials. Status quo is their game and that’s why the situation is so difficult today. The more you procrastinate, the more difficult and compromising it’s going to be. Sure, prudence is good. But non-action is stupid, cowardly and fatal.

I agree that many elected officials are lacking in vision and that the status quo is becoming intolerable. I will match my record in working on our regional infrastructure needs against anyone’s. In my past 3 years on council I have taken the lead in pushing to build a regional network1,2, including extending Hillsdale Drive (www.hillsdaledrive.org – public hearing on the final alignment will be held in early spring – I have been advocating that we build alternative C ASAP) building the Southern Parkway3 (county has agreed to build, but no claims no money is available) and eastern connector4,5,6 (I have proposed 4 potential alignments, county dragging its feet until recently, still no agreed alignment or funding). Other elected officials will pay lip service to these projects, but you can ask anyone at the local VDOT office who actually walks the walk and puts real workable proposals on the table.

I’m afraid that it is the County, along with Blake, Meredith and Rob who are stuck in a 30 year old paradigm (the City builds roads to the County line and the County overdevelops them). This has not been helped by the fact that for the past 10 years, the County’s transportation strategy has been largely focused on stopping the 29 Bypass. Like many, I think the 29BP was badly designed and overpriced. However it would have helped our region’s North/South transportation problems and eased congestion in the City. We’ve given up much of our leverage with the County by letting go of the 29BP. Once the MCP is built, we will have lost what little leverage we still have to get the County to pull its weight outside of the City.

This so reminds me of the debate in Arlington 20-30 years ago over development of I-66. Local government and activists dug in their heels to prevent the road, then to restrict it to fewer lanes than were projected as necessary.

Exactly! And for 20-30 years, Arlington has been one of the most livable areas in Virginia, and the most livable in Northern Virginia (other than some expensive bits of Alexandria). Arlington has used transit to attract mixed use development into its urban corridors while preserving quiet residential neighborhoods, many of which are within walking distance to work, shopping, recreation, etc. Those who sneer at urban planning should know that Arlington’s property tax rate is less than 98 cents per hundred, well below the State average.

Contrast Arlington to sprawling Fairfax, which has tried to build its way out of congestion with roads, instead of intelligent planning (no disrespect to Fairfax planners, it’s a different voter mindset). As a result, Fairfax is a soulless wasteland with a tax rate of 1.21 per hundred.

As Charlottesville grows, it needs to look around the State and Country for examples on how best to grow. We can try to stay compact and focus our infrastructure around transit oriented development like Alexandria and Arlington or we can role over and sprawl out like Fairfax and Newport News. If you prefer the former, then Maurice and I need your help. If you prefer the latter then you should vote for someone else.

The statement [There are at least 1800 new housing units planned for the immediate area, which will result in about 18,000 car trips per day] rubs me a little wrong. Are we to believe that every house will result in ten car trips per day?

Absolutely. 10 trips per day is the average for a suburban residential housing unit. In an urban area like Charlottesville, where 16 percent of people living in the City walk to work, the number drops to as low as 4 trips per household. This suggests an obvious answer – induce people to live closer to where they work, play, shop, etc and the traffic goes way down. Obvious but not easy. Housing in the central City is expensive and scarce. I realize that’s a problem, although people have been finding creative solutions.

Anyone know what [Lynch] means by [The character and success of the Downtown Mall has largely hinged upon the City’s ability to induce people to come downtown while leaving their automobiles somewhere else.]? How does he think people get downtown now? If what he says were true, there would be no parking problems downtown… All the “character” in the world is not going to offset the increasing inability to get downtown.

When the Downtown pedestrian mall was built in 1976, the idea was that people would park at the outskirts and walk to retail, office and entertainment destinations on the Mall. Over time, this expanded to include parking garages where people can leave their cars all day. Later came satellite parking area, park and ride lots, ride share, bike lanes and transit. In the neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the Downtown Mall and University, 30 percent of residents walk to work.

We have been struggling to make our transit system work better. We still have a long way to go, but we have increased ridership by over a thousand trips per day in the past few years. The trolley is very successful at moving people between Downtown, the University and surrounding neighborhoods. Drive past a downtown bus stop during the evening rush hour and you will see increasing numbers of people who are working downtown and riding the bus by choice, because its easier and cheaper than dealing with a car. I will be the first to admit that we need to figure out how to make the bus system a viable option for more people. And I have been working on this. I’ve had proposals for streamlining the bus service on the table for over a year and a half. 7, 8, 9

Where exactly are the parking problems Downtown? We’ve got a surplus of space in the parking garages. If you are complaining that you can’t park right under your office window for free all day, I’ll grant you that. But give me an example of any City in the State with the density and level of cosmopolitan amenities of Charlottesville where one can do this? Sure, you can probably find some bland office park or shopping center where you can park a little closer, as long as staring at a cubicle all day is your idea of a good time.

The buses do not run often enough and when they do, they impede surrounding traffic … Why wait 45 minutes at a bus stop for a 30 minute bus ride when driving 15 minutes and spending 5-10 minutes parking is clearly much less time consuming and troublesome? … I don’t think that the problem is necessarily a lack of demand, it is a lack of an efficient, convenient service. For better or worse, we live in an auto-centric society… Cville transit system is as-if non-existent to those who want a modicum of convenience. On the other hand, developing a good transit system is a worthwhile goal, rather than only thinking about cars.

Good points. I don’t disagree. We need to make transit and ridesharing more competitive with the SOV. Until we come up with a workable congestion pricing scheme, the only mechanism we have to do this are to improve transit and be careful with where we allow roads and parking. Our current bus system is based on a hub and spoke system. Most routes only run every hour and its not very scalable. I’ve been promoting a backbone and feeder system. It’s a lot easier to navigate. Busses would come every 15 minutes in the neighborhoods and every 10 minutes on the backbone. Its much more scalable and would only take 4 more busses than what we currently have.

Why on earth do [Bike lanes on the MP]? Leave Park Street and Rio road to the cyclists and the peds. If you want to put a parallel bike path to the MP, that would be great. But I don’t see that as an absolute necessity.

Because even under the best case scenario, where we preserve open space and don’t build out to the level that the County is proposing, at least 1000 new units are going to be built right around the northern termination of the MCP. Getting the number of trips per household from the suburban average of 10 to the urban average of 4 requires that these folks have some viable alternatives, one of which is bike lanes for commuters. And we want to also have a separate lower speed path for kids, recreational cyclists and pedestrians. I know that there are a lot of soccer moms out there who would rather send their kid to practice on a bike or on foot (as my own mom did) rather then schlepping them around in a minivan.

What’s the purpose of building another slow [35mph] road in Charlottesville?

Believe it or not, 35mph is the optimal speed for getting maximum volume throughput from any given road (as I recall, the number is closer to 40, but most people will drive 40 on a road signed for 35). The reason has to do with spacing between cars. As speed increases, safe following distance increases exponentially, and you get less volume throughput, even though the cars are going faster.

I’d like to see at least 65 mph on the MP

That would be Interstate 64 (on a good day). I like to make time on the road as much as the next guy/gal, but driving 65 in an urban area like Charlottesville is ridiculous. You need to find a nice little midwestern dustbowl town or stick to the interstate if you like driving 65 everywhere

The MP needs to be a fast way to get past Charlottesville / Albermarle, with just 1 exit until past the airport.

No. That’s a bypass you are referring to – Not the MCP. The County pulled out all the stops to eliminate the Western Bypass. Now they want to turn the MCP into an Eastern Bypass. In fact when VDOT determined the best route for the bypass, they looked at MCP, (which was called alternative 7A). VDOT concluded that the Western bypass (alternative 10) was preferable to MCP for a number of reasons. 10 The western bypass would have taken much more traffic off other roads than the MCP and the southern termination for the MCP (at the 250 bypass) is the wrong place for a bypass. Environmentally, the MCP impacts more wetlands sites, crosses twice as many streams and impacts more than twice the acreage of “high value” habitat and floodplain, than does the Western bypass.

Yes, the Western bypass would go through our watershed, while the MCP goes through the downstream watershed, but so what? Communities downstream of us still have to drink the water, which will be more polluted if we build the MCP than if we were to have built the Western Bypass. Anyone who considers himself or herself an environmentalist must realize that the MCP is a worse road environmentally than the Western Bypass.

I remain unconvinced that building a Parkway will make Park street worse. With the addition of traffic lights on Melbourne, most motorist will avoid a road with several traffic lights (rio/park) to drive on a road with none.

Building the Parkway in itself doesn’t make things worse. All of the development that is enabled by the Parkway makes things worse. And please, all of you pro-development types, don’t tell me that its going to happen anyway. I know several of the developers and I know that they have plans which have been sitting on the shelf for years because Park/Rio traffic counts are too high to allow any new subdivision roads to access Park/Rio. Of course, some growth will occur naturally. This is a popular place to live. However, if the MCP doesn’t get built, then the number of people moving to the area will decrease (because developers and realtors won’t be shilling their product to people outside of the area) and those who do move here will either have to settle for living on a more compact footprint in the City or somewhere in the County where the infrastructure is better (such as Western Albemarle – except that no one wants any newcomers there). I think it makes some sense that the County wants to designate Rio Rd as a growth area, but they need to build their own roads. Don’t make the City build them.

I agree that lights on Park street will make things better for Park street residents. I have been advocating this since before I was on Council.

I see nary a mention of cost in Lynch’s nearly three thousand words here.

You must have missed the press release. 11 VDOT is planning to begin construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway in 2006 and expects to complete the 2.1 mile project by 2008, at a cost of approximately 26 million dollars. This number, which does not include a functioning interchange, is more than what it will cost to build the Eastern Connector and Southern Parkway together

My question for Cox and Lynch is this: if tomorrow the County agrees to ban trucks, the replacement parkland they want is provided, and VDOT approves their plan for the 250 intersection, would they then support the parkway and vote for the transfer?

If you have read this far, you should know by now that my answer is no. If you include a real commitment to build the Eastern Connector and Southern Parkway then the answer is yes. I’ve been on the record on this for years.

I have been absolutely clear and consistent here. A few months after being elected to Council I sent a memo to Council which outlined how we could move forward with the MCP without giving up on the regional network and creating a disaster for the City. 12 The result of this memo was that on Dec 11, 2000, The City sent a letter to VDOT and the County, clarifying the position of the new Council and establishing a stronger position for the City.

I did not sign the Dec 11th letter, because I did not believe that the commitment requirements in the letter were strong enough. On December 5th 2000, I sent Council a version of the VDOT letter which I was willing to sign.13 I also sent it to the Daily Progress, so I am on record with this. The wording in italics are additions that myself and the rest of Council agreed on. The change bars are the things I wanted to see in the letter before I would sign it. Read it for yourself and then ask me if I am being unreasonable. You will note that I am not asking for anything new, other than firm commitments on the conditions that the City is asking for.

Kevin Lynch

References (all authored by Kevin Lynch):

  • Letter to CHART committee, publicly distributed, concerning regional network. 10/23/02 (RTF, 25kb)
  • Accompanying proposed regional network map 10/23/02 (JPEG, 96kb)
  • Aerial showing alignment of Southern Parkway between Mill Creek and 5th street. Created 7/11/02 (JPEG, 84kb)
  • Letter to MPO, publicly distributed concerning Eastern Connector alignments. 4/01/02 (RTF, 8KB)
  • Aerial showing 4 possible alignments for Eastern connector. 4/01/02 (JPEG, 76kb)
  • Aerial showing possible alignment for Eastern Connector extension along North side of Pantops 4/01/02 (JPEG, 80kb)
  • Proposal for reconfiguring the CTS bus system, publicly distributed. 7/23/02 (RTF, 16kb)
  • Map of existing bus service routes (JPEG, 80kb)
  • Map of proposed reconfiguration of bus system, publicly distributed. 7/23/02 (JPEG, 72kb)
  • No Bypass or no Western Bypass, publicly distributed 10/21/02 (RTF, 984kb)
  • Press release from Kevin Lynch, Maurice Cox Re: Transfer of land for Meadowcreek Parkway 11/30/03 (RTF, 24kb)
  • Necessary conditions for building Meadowcreek parkway. Sent to City Council Oct 23rd, 2000 (RTF, 436kb)
  • Draft letter to VDOT, to be signed by Lynch. Sent to City Council Dec 5th, 2000 (DOC, 36kb)
  • 22 Responses to “Meadowcreek Debate: Lynch Responds”


    • Mr. Lynch:

      I tend to agree with most of your arguments, to such an extent I feel I’ve got my foot in my mouth (once is not customary). Not on the overall presentation of the need for a rapid North / South expressway, but on the specific Meadowcreek Parkway (MCP) project. What I needed to do is make the case for the Route-29 Western Bypass (29BP), not the MCP. After catching up on the specifics you provided, my advocacy and support should really be for the 29BP. In fact, in light of the 29BP, the MCP becomes more a luxury project than a necessity. If it would be developed, then indeed a reasonably slow moving traffic flow and superior bike paths would be welcome.

      To be perfectly clear: the 29BP is way overdue; the MCP has the time to be tweaked.

      That being said, I argue with your assertion that “35mph is the optimal speed for getting maximum volume throughput from any given road”. You shouldn’t believe everything you read, as I’m sure you’re more than a little aware, being a politician and all. This contention probably stems from the insurance lobby, backed no doubt by willing county officials all over the U.S., eyeing the ad hoc taxation system that are our “Judge Roy Bean” traffic courts.

      I do not desire to drive 65 mph in an urban area, but I certainly would like to drive AT LEAST 65 on double-laned expressways. I’m sure I need not remind you of the ancient 70’s when the current speed limits were established. They were imposed federally in order to respond to the petroleum crisis of the times. American cars were outrageously heavy, inefficient in terms of fuel economy and not particularly adept at driving at sustained speeds over 60. That was then, this is now. I could go on, but it’s just a bit off-topic.

      As a relative newcomer to the area since early 1999, I must say I feel strongly that the separation of Charlottesville and Albemarle, as political entities, is one of the root causes of the endemic status quo we’re experiencing. Charlottesville being Dem and Albemarle Conservative, which one should prevail? Well, I’ve got my preference but in the meantime, we have our collective asses between the proverbial two chairs. So while each side grand-stands the other’s projects, the situation is getting worse by the day.

    • For starters, the state speed limit is 65mph, so you’re definitely going to have to settle for that. Secondly, this is not an "expressway." In fact, quite the opposite — it’s a parkway. (You know, like the Blue Ridge Parkway.) There’s no way that Council would have approved this as an expressway. And finally, this is only a 1.5 mile road. Ignoring any practical element and looking purely at speed, a trip along this road at 35mph, rather than 65mph would require just 1 minute and 1 second more of your time. I’m not sure that’s a sufficient quantity of time to warrant the tremendous difference in construction between the two styles of road. (Which is to say nothing of need to change speeds. If you recall how long that it takes to safely accelerate to 65mph when getting onto the highway from a rest stop, you can see that a decent chunk of that 1.5 miles would be necessary for some vehicles to even get up to 65mph.)

      Philosophy exam in the morning. Maybe if I put Willy James’ "Pragmatism" under my pillow, I’ll learn by osmosis.

    • I may not have made myself clear: the MCP could work fine at 35 / 45 mph, but the 29BP would do well to be 65 mph, and so should 29 south and the connecting 29 north. There are spots where the speed should be reduced (these aren’t interstates, after all), but most areas would easily sustain 65 mph.

      In other words, under Albemarle / Charlottesville jurisdiction, from the Nelson to Greene counties lines, staying on 29, using the new and much needed 29BP, most of it could fluctuate between 65 / 55 mph. Right now, it takes 50 minutes to travel by car on a good day, 70 minutes (or more) on a bad day between north and south county lines. This new combo of better speed limits and the 29BP would reduce the travel time to probably around 35 minutes and be more consistent. I believe the corollary results, in increased quality of life, in traffic reduction on secondary avenues and in residential location flexibility would be phenomenal. And although the plan is not a solution to all traffic issues, the 29BP allows for much quicker north to south AND east to west connections, since the 29BP would make I64 much more accessible to all northern traffic. Charlottesville would probably attract many more through travelers and if handled adroitly from a planning standpoint, that would represent a nice business proposition. And county dwellers would be that much closer to all Charlottesville has to offer.

    • Ah, the Bypass, not the Parkway. Sorry. Ignore everything I said. (As if you hadn’t already. ;)

    • I am pretty sure that interstates are the only roads permitted by Virginia law to carry a 65 mph speed limit, but I’m not 100% sure.

    • "As a relative newcomer to the area since early 1999, I must say I feel strongly that the separation of Charlottesville and Albemarle, as political entities, is one of the root causes of the endemic status quo we’re experiencing. Charlottesville being Dem and Albemarle Conservative, which one should prevail? Well, I’ve got my preference but in the meantime, we have our collective asses between the proverbial two chairs. So while each side grand-stands the other’s projects, the situation is getting worse by the day. "

      I have to agree with this statement from the Sympatidator. You guys need to stop stepping on each other toes. Work together for the sake of this area. I live in Albemarle yet my mailing address says Charlottesville. Okay so who am I suppose to be voting for.

    • Thank you for your response.

      One thing I appreciate is hearing the bottome line: what is the minimum you need before you would vote “yes” to new road construction? Your position that we should build roads that will ease the burden on the existing structure without encouraging new development on it makes sense – as long as we build something, and it doesn’t become an impasse which results in building and doing nothing. I would certainly support the eastern connector.

      How would you propose breaking the deadlock with the county over these bypasses and the parkway?

      A few remarks I’d like to comment on:

      This suggests an obvious answer – induce people to live closer to where they work, play, shop, etc and the traffic goes way down. Obvious but not easy. Housing in the central City is expensive and scarce. I realize that’s a problem, although people have been finding creative solutions.

      I’m glad you at least recognize that this is a problem. Charlottesville seems to me to be a community for four types of people: rich, poor, those affiliated with the university, and young professionals who don’t mind paying high rent for a few years. Buying a home here is no longer a realistic option for middle-class people. I have friends at work who bought houses here in the 90’s in the mid-$100s. Those days are long gone. A 2- or 3-bedroom house that is not a roach-infested wreck or a bullet trap cannot be had in the city for less than about $250k now, if one can be had at all. The only realistic option for people who don’t want to be paying rent when they retire is to move out of the city.

      When the Downtown pedestrian mall was built in 1976, the idea was that people would park at the outskirts and walk to retail, office and entertainment destinations on the Mall. Over time, this expanded to include parking garages where people can leave their cars all day.

      And that works fine, for the Mall. What was puzzling was the comment about “leaving their cars somewhere else” – unless that just meant the garage next to the Mall.

      The real problem is, what happens when these people want to go somewhere else other than the Mall? Either public transit accounts for their needs, or they burden the roads. You cannot build a checkpoint at the city line and keep them out. Refusing to build roads just makes the resulting traffic congestion as much a nightmare for city residents as the people driving in from the counties. But the main thing is to recognize that attracting people from the outlying areas is the only thing that will keep the city an economically viable community. The city doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and if it tries to close itself to business from the outside, business will relocate to the county where they are accessible to their customers, and the city’s tax base will suffer the result – and city dwellers will find themselves needing cars to commute to the county, as is the case in Richmond.

      The trolley is very successful at moving people between Downtown, the University and surrounding neighborhoods.

      That’s fine, for students and faculty. Who else has any desire to ride to and from the university? Everyone else wants to ride between downtown, the residential areas, and the retail areas on 29N. If public transit is to become a viable alternative to driving to, from, and everywhere within and around the city, it needs to take people where people need and want to go.

    • You cannot build a checkpoint at the city line and keep them out.

      Well, you can, it’s just not such a hot idea.

    • Once again, good arguments. Before responding, how about a show of hands (including the lurkers)? Where does everyone reading this site live? How important are traffic issues to you in the relative scheme of things? Enough to get you to show up at a Council or BOS meeting if you thought it would make a difference? Do you love your car or love mobility (or both)? I expect that there are a lot of two and three car households out there. What would it take to give up one car payment and use transit/rideshare/vanpool for commuting to work?

      Onto the responses.

      >>>I argue with your assertion that “35mph is the optimal speed for getting maximum volume throughput from any given road”…. This contention probably stems from the insurance lobby

      I believe its from the FHWA Highway Capacity Manual. I’ll try to find the exact reference. Remember from drivers ed, as speed increases linearly, safe following distance increases exponentially. You can get more throughput at higher speed, but only by disregarding the safe following distance, which is why the insurance lobby likes the lower speed limits. Individuals like to take chances, but in the aggregate, the number of increased accidents is predictable.

      >>>I do not desire to drive 65 mph in an urban area, but I certainly would like to drive AT LEAST 65 on double-laned expressways

      So do I, when I’m on the interstate. Anywhere within a 15 mile radius of Cville, I’d prefer a nice curvy, motorcycle friendly, two lane highway, signed at 35-50, and relatively free of congestion.

      Ironically, it was the need for speed that was at the root cause of the 29 Bypass’ demise. VDOT designed the road to interstate standards, with a 65mph design speed and 55mph posted speed. This meant it had to be very nearly straight and the topo around here is anything but straight. The best alignment that VDOT could come up with went through mountains, over valleys, through the reservoir watershed and took out over 40 homes in wealthy neighborhoods. The earthmoving costs were huge, the environmentalists were outraged and the lawyers were bankrolled. I believe that if VDOT had started 15 years ago with a design for a slower road, like the 250 bypass, they could have avoided the massive earthmoving, the neighborhoods and the watershed issues. We’d be driving on it by now. I believe the new generation of VDOT leadership recognizes this.

      >>>How would you propose breaking the deadlock with the county over these bypasses and the parkway?

      I believe the solution is to start with the facts on the ground and try to come up with a road alignment that has minimal impact and works for everyone in the immediate vicinity, before even putting it on the table to VDOT. That is what we did with the Hillsdale drive extension. Before going to VDOT, Harrison Rue (TJPDC director) and I met with every possible stakeholder we could think of and went through several iterations of alignment before we came up with something that everyone would like. Then we took it to VDOT. As a result, that road is on the fast track. In fact, the only opposition is coming from the senior citizen neighborhoods north of the project, because it didn’t occur to me to talk to them first – and I think we can address their problems. We are in the process of doing the same with the Eastern Connector. Getting the neighborhoods on board first is key.

      >>>Buying a home [in the City] is no longer a realistic option for middle-class people. A 2- or 3-bedroom house that is not a roach-infested wreck or a bullet trap cannot be had in the city for less than about $250k now, if one can be had at all.

      We recognize that housing costs are a problem, which we continue to work on. We do have some solutions. First, the City will assist first time homebuyers with down payment and closing costs. With mortgage rates low, this makes buying a house a realistic proposition. It’s still possible to find a good house for under 100K if you are willing to put some sweat equity into it, and we have low interest rehab loans. We have been working with developers to provide more townhouse and condo options, and with PHA to do renovations in key neighborhoods. Also, the notion that Cville neighborhoods are unsafe is largely an outdated stereotype. We’ve been very aggressive about community policing since I’ve been on Council We’ve still got a few spots we’re working on, but our crime numbers are way down over the past decade. So far we’ve only had one homicide in the City (knock on wood) and that was some UVA student nutjob. Compare that to the supposedly “good neighborhoods” in the County

      >>>I must say I feel strongly that the separation of Charlottesville and Albemarle, as political entities, is one of the root causes of the endemic status quo we’re experiencing.

      No argument here. Before getting into politics, I was part of the town reversion group that advocated combining the two localities. That’s a whole other story.

    • Before responding, how about a show of hands (including the lurkers)?

      Uh, well, they’re lurkers. So they’re not gonna say anything, by definition. :)

      Where does everyone reading this site live?

      Um. Blacksburg.

      I suck.

      The funny thing is that fully a quarter of the site’s most active users are of Charlottesville, but living in some far-flung portion of the U.S.

    • Great info, Kevin! Thanks for taking the time to explain yourself. This site tends to have a lot of opinions and not many facts.

      I live in the city, and mobility is much more important to me than driving a car. In other words, I would gladly give up one of our cars if I could get to work and a few other places easily. Unfortunately, I have a 50 minute bus ride (when the bus is on time), or a 6 mile, hilly, partly dangerous bike ride (which I admit I’m too slack to do regularly). I work in the suburbs and doubt there is anyone from my neighborhood going anywhere near my work.

      Your ideas about changing the bus schedules sounds interesting and could help get me on a bus more often. The biggest problem is that the bus goes through the most congested roads, so it moves much too slowly. Also, the bus stops going to my neighborhood at 6pm, which keeps me from using it except for commuting.

      I doubt I’d ever find the Meadowcreek Parkway useful. I’m rarely on Rio Rd.

    • ">>>I must say I feel strongly that the separation of Charlottesville and Albemarle, as political entities, is one of the root causes of the endemic status quo we’re experiencing.

      No argument here. Before getting into politics, I was part of the town reversion group that advocated combining the two localities. That’s a whole other story. "

      I really think today is best time to discuss this. I mean with MCP and the bypass stepping on each other toes why not? For me, there isn’t a define line where the county and city borders. Well maybe except for that big Charlottesville sign next to the Holiday Inn. This back and forth stuff has to end.

    • lol

      yeah good idea, keep people out of the city, why didn’t I think of that?

    • Great info, Kevin! Thanks for taking the time to explain yourself. This site tends to have a lot of opinions and not many facts.

      A wisdom says not everything that’s written is true. Today, an updated version could be: “not every statistic conconcted by government is true”. In other words, you confuse facts with statistics.

    • KevinLynch writes: I did not sign the Dec 11th letter, because I did not believe that the commitment requirements in the letter were strong enough.

      I think you made a good decision, and I like the detailed argument and supporting links you gave here. (And, like others, I appreciate your participation here.) But along the way, I think you make a few not insignificant mistakes.

      KevinLynch writes: However [the Western Bypass] would have helped our region’s North/South transportation problems and eased congestion in the City.

      Yes . . . but barely so. The "best" numbers from (imperial-era, pro-bypass) VDOT in the so called 1993 Final EIS showed that only ten percent of traffic on 29 North was through traffic. The other NINETY percent was going to or from a destination on 29 between the north and sound ends of the bypass.

      KevinLynch writes: The western bypass would have taken much more traffic off other roads than the MCP.

      I’ve never heard or seen this before. What is the source?

      In any case, I think the better point is that VDOT’s own studies showed that neither the Western Bypass nor the Meadowcreek Parkway would improve congestion on 29 in appreciable ways. Even with their construction, the level of service on 29 would soon reach "failure" (VDOT grade "F").

      KevinLynch writes: Until we come up with a workable congestion pricing scheme, the only mechanism we have to do this are to improve transit and be careful with where we allow roads and parking.

      By the way: What ever happened to the recommendation for trolleys? Or was that money for the consultants just wasted. I remember their message to be: don’t dither!

      KevinLynch writes: VDOT is planning to begin construction of the Meadowcreek Parkway in 2006 and expects to complete the 2.1 mile project by 2008, at a cost of approximately 26 million dollars.

      Wouldn’t this money be better spent on grade-separated interchange at Hydraulic? This is the only construction project that the VDOT study showed would improve 29 traffic to an acceptable level (grade "B"). Such a retrofit — say, built like the modified TUDI some suggest — has that same pricetag, no?

      KevinLynch writes: Before getting into politics, I was part of the town reversion group that advocated combining the two localities. That’s a whole other story.

      Perhaps the first step would be to use the Hydraulic interchange — with its three corners in the City and one in the County — to forge a new cooperative relationship with Albemarle. I think it was a gross case of leadership malpractice the way the City squashed this project in 1995. (A companion case would be the inability to score a deal with Gabe Silverman for a West Main St. bus transfer station.)

      P.S. Where do you Democrats for Change now stand on your party plank to work for the direct election of the mayor?

    • I am a simple non-affiliated citizen living on the south side (20 minutes) from Charlottesville. I own businesses in and out of Charlottesville and the state of Virginia. I cannot compete with either Mr. Lynch or ‘Belle’ in terms of detailed information on local government operations, workflows and projects.

      What I can plainly see, however, is just like on our national political scene, there’s a profound contempt for the simple citizens and especially a dysfunctional political system. Mr. Lynch constructs a very strong case argument against the MCP at this time. Belle denounces the Western Bypass as a loser project with governmental studies at hand.

      Democracy’s philosophical (political) intent is to favor public debates with everyone pulling and tugging in a possibly different direction, yet as a whole, the convoy (public endeavors) moves in a direction representing the majority’s wishes. That’s the theory and until some time during the latter part of the 20th century, it worked pretty well. But today, the system doesn’t work. On the national scene, there’s a complete disconnect with real, hard-working Americans. Either there’s gridlock like under Clinton, or there’s dictatorship under Bush who’s promoting every pet project the Rich and Wealthy would dream to have implemented.

      On the local scene, we have our own gridlock too. Charlottesville and Albemarle County traffic conditions are but the tip of the iceberg in terms of malfunction. I believe the primary reason is voter disaffection associated with an overly complex world. You see, for every statistical “factoid” one proponent brings to a public works project, they’ll be many opposing factoids available. Who to believe? A voter can’t just trust a particular organization or entity because everyone has a hidden agenda. Look at Best Buy’s arrival as a single example of an endemic breakdown of our systems! I have nothing against that store. In fact, it’s kind of nice to have all that electronic glitter to shop locally. But the location within the current roadway infrastructure is complete insanity! Some people somewhere in our local governments got some very personal incentives to put this project through. And please don’t have County people chime in on how absurd the City folks are, because the placement for Hollymead Plaza (or whatever it’s called) is also complete folly!

      So now, I’m just going to go back to the woodwork and hide from this impossible situation. Call me disenfranchised…

    • More good questions:

      What I can plainly see, however, is just like on our national political scene, there’s a profound contempt for the simple citizens and especially a dysfunctional political system

      You’re probably right on the latter, but the former isn’t true. Look, the whole reason I got drawn into this discussion is that I thought you all had some legitimate points of view which were not being addressed. And even when I disagree with some of my fellow local elected officials over how we solve the transportation problem, I have no doubt that most are trying to represent what they think their constituents want. That’s why I asked for the show of hands as to who would be willing to go to a Council or BOS meeting. Most of the time, decisions get made by the people who show up at the meetings.

      Mr. Lynch constructs a very strong case argument against the MCP at this time. Belle denounces the Western Bypass as a loser project with governmental studies at hand….. Charlottesville and Albemarle County traffic conditions are but the tip of the iceberg in terms of malfunction

      Agreed. The way to get beyond this is to stop saying “NO” and start talking in terms of “This is what we need to make the project work for us”. This is what I have been trying to do with the MCP for the past 10 years. In order for the MCP to be a workable proposition, it needs to function as part of a regional network. In order for that to happen, opponents of the 29 Bypass, Eastern Connector, Southern Parkway, 29 interchanges, etc have to move away from “NO” and towards “How do we make these projects work for us”. Maurice and I have been relatively flexible, compared to other elected officials. From the beginning, we’ve recognized that the MCP could be workable under a set of conditions that are realistically achievable. We’ve laid those conditions out and have tried to work to make them happen. When the County can demonstrate a similar level of flexibility towards building roads in the County (which is after all where all of the growth and traffic demand is generated), then we can break the gridlock and move forward.

      The “best” numbers from (imperial-era, pro-bypass) VDOT in the so called 1993 Final EIS showed that only ten percent of traffic on 29 North was through traffic. The other NINETY percent was going to or from a destination on 29 between the north and sound ends of the bypass.

      You are referring to numbers put out by bypass opponents in their literature. If you read the EIS, you will see that the 10 percent number is misleading. That is just the number of through vehicles which make it as far as the intersection at Rt 29 and Hydraulic. But as we all know, this intersection is highly congested and a fair amount of through traffic manages to avoid this intersection by one means or another. The actual amount of through traffic coming through the region served by the bypass is 18% of the cars and 34% of the trucks. These are the 1993 EIS numbers.

      I’ve never heard or seen [that the western bypass would have taken much more traffic off other roads than the MCP] before. What is the source?

      The 1993 EIS! Look it up! For a condensed version, see reference #10 in my original post. Don’t forget, one of the reasons a close in Western Bypass (alternative 10) was chosen was so that it would carry a good deal of the local traffic in addition to the through traffic. And it would have carried even more local traffic, had Western Albemarle residents not fought tooth and nail to prevent a midpoint interchange at Hydraulic Rd, near AHS, which VDOT wanted to build.

      In any case, I think the better point is that VDOT’s own studies showed that neither the Western Bypass nor the Meadowcreek Parkway would improve congestion on 29 in appreciable ways. Even with their construction, the level of service on 29 would soon reach “failure” (VDOT grade “F”).

      True, but misleading. Are you are reading from PEC/SELC talking points or the actual EIS? VDOT’s studies showed that if we had built the bypass, the congestion on Rt. 29 would be about the same in 2010 as it was in 1987. That is what the EIS says. The bypass opponents say that this is not an improvement in conditions and technically they are right. But they are ignoring the reason that congestion was not predicted to improve: because traffic demand was projected to more than double over the 23 year period! Some of this demand may have been depressed by not building the 29BP, but clearly not all of it, as you can see today if you drive 29. If the 29BP had been built, then in the short term traffic would decrease, and then as the region developed, the traffic levels build back up again. Personally, I’d be happy to go back to 1987 levels of traffic on Rt 29.

      I am no fan of the 29 Bypass. It was over engineered and because of this, it ran up against cost constraints, environmental concerns and neighborhood opposition. These are all valid concerns. However one of the first things I looked into once I got on Council and the MPO board was whether we could redesign the 29BP with a new alignment which would be slightly slower (signed for 45mph vs 55mph) but conform to the terrain, avoid the neighborhoods and watershed, and cut two thirds of the cost. If you go back and look at old MPO meeting minutes, you will see that I put months of effort into this. You will also see that there was zero interest from the County. The monied Western Albemarle interests will go to the mat to keep roads out of Western Albemarle. Some of this is legitimate concern, but much is NIMBY. Lets be honest here. I have deep respect for the environmentalists, but some of the folks bankrolling them would eat James River Spiny Mussels on the half shell if they were on the menu at some pricey restaurant. I suppose that’s their right, but for them to then say that the MCP – a more environmentally damaging road – should be built is really hypocritical.

      Wouldn’t this money be better spent on grade-separated interchange at Hydraulic? This is the only construction project that the VDOT study showed would improve 29 traffic to an acceptable level (grade “B”). Such a retrofit — say, built like the modified TUDI some suggest — has that same pricetag, no?

      Actually, it was a series of three interchanges, one at Hydraulic, one at Greenbrier, and one at Rio, which need to work together in order to actually see an improvement in conditions over time. I support this concept. In fact, I would take it one step further and continue to remove all traffic lights on Rt 29 between the 250 bypass and Airport Road, while improving access to the businesses on the sides of 29 – similar to what Santa Barbara did with Highway 101 in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Santa Barbara and the associated metropolitan area are roughly twice the size of what we have in Cville and County and 101 works great for them.

      In 1988, the Piedmont Environmental Council paid a consultant, Joseph Passonneau, to design such a solution. I believe that this is the closest that anyone has come to a workable solution for the congestion problems on 29. If anyone want a copy, I’ve got it on pdf, but its big. About 10Meg. Maybe I can get Waldo to put it up on his site somewhere

      Even the Passonneau proposal (Alternative 9 in the VDOT EIS) has some flaws. He proposed submerging the center through lanes – similar to how the Powite Parkway works in Richmond. This would have been aesthetically pleasing, but the business interests were rightly concerned about loosing visibility. For a lot of businesses, all the access in the world doesn’t help much without visibility. So the chamber torpedoed the Passonneau proposal.

      I think it was a gross case of leadership malpractice the way the City squashed [the Hydraulic interchange] project in 1995.

      That was before my time, but I understand why they made that decision and I supported Council at the time. The interchange that VDOT proposed was huge – nothing like the tight design that Walter Kulash came up with many years later. It would have taken out businesses at all three City corners of the intersection: The Kroger, Kmart and Exxon. The City would have lost over a million dollars a year in taxes.

      In retrospect, it would have been better if instead of saying “NO”, the City had said “Give us something better – Something that doesn’t damage our interests”. But 1995 was a different era (the imperial-era as you put it). George Allen was governor and Carter Myers (owner of Colonial Auto) was the CTB representative for the Culpeper district. They didn’t listen to local government concerns. The climate now with Warner as governor and Butch Davis as our CTB rep is much better. They are willing to work with local concerns, which is a huge step forward.

      Perhaps the first step would be to use the Hydraulic interchange — with its three corners in the City and one in the County — to forge a new cooperative relationship with Albemarle.

      Absolutely. We are already doing this. Of course we need to keep in mind that the three corners in the City contribute well over a million dollars of tax base, while the one County corner hasn’t been developed yet. Just like with the MCP issue, we need to make sure that the Hydraulic solution is done in an equitable way that doesn’t damage City interests.

      By the way: What ever happened to the recommendation for trolleys? Or was that money for the consultants just wasted. I remember their message to be: don’t dither!

      City Council just had a work session on that two nights ago. We’re still working on the details, but we’re committed to, and actively working on, a plan to take transit to the next level over the next 2-5 years, starting immediately.

    • You get an ‘A’ for effort, Kevin! But that still doesn’t build us the transportation components we need. I wish I could be more hopeful and therefore participatory, but I just don’t see it.

      For instance, when you say: Even the Passonneau proposal (Alternative 9 in the VDOT EIS) has some flaws. He proposed submerging the center through lanes – similar to how the Powite Parkway works in Richmond. This would have been aesthetically pleasing, but the business interests were rightly concerned about loosing visibility. For a lot of businesses, all the access in the world doesn’t help much without visibility. So the chamber torpedoed the Passonneau proposal.

      That’s just unacceptable. Private citizens get trounced all the time with no recourse. There are plenty of cases where private personal properties get devalued arbitrarily by rezoning or simply unsavory neighbors moving in, yet business somehow can demand in-your-face visibility at all times!? That’s what’s wrong in the first place: because the ‘commercialism’ bar is set so fantastically high, it seems unreasonable for business to not have 50 foot signs floating above every American horizon. It’s pathetic!

      I mean, the best solutions are rejected because of some ingrained pro-business bias (yet profoundly anti-aesthetics). It’s like playing poker where all the aces and royalty are unavailable to you (Joe Public), yet freely provided to others (business, military and government). Chances of winning are very slim indeed!

    • Oh my gawd. What a long winded explanation. No wonder our local govt never accomplishes anything. What ever happened to being short, sweet and to the point?

      Instead we’re numbed by endless diatribe. Fix the damn traffic congestion and do it quickly.

    • What a long-winded post.

      Kevin, rather than spend all this time researching and presenting this diatribe to the public, why don’t you get your head out of the sand and notice we have a traffic problem and that the general public doesn’t share your utopic vision of yourself and Maurice all happy shiny riding bikes everywhere.

      As much as I might like it if everyone rode bikes it isn’t going to happen -ever- do you not realize that?

      To close, please just serve the public as your position dictates and work to fix the traffic problem – using new roads as the solution the majority wishes. As it stands, you’re just making things worse.

    • Actually, I think it may be a hot idea. From the information in your link, it looks like it works. This reminds me of how London’s train system used to work. No train lines cut through London. If you wished to travel through London, you’d take a train to London, walk or take a cab to the proper station, and take a different train out of London. This A. saved some nice parts of London from being demolished for a rail right-of-way and B. required anyone traveling through London to actually see London, absorbing the culture and participating in its commerce.

      The trick, of course, is to make sure that people can still easily and affordably get into town without their cars, and have the option of bringing their cars if they are wealthy/car-addicted enough. And the other trick is to open Cville up to development so that people who want to live in Cville can afford to. Not scyscrapers or government housing, but good housing of the sort we already have in Cville, just filling in the holes.

    • Lots of tough county commuters my foot!

      How about a lot of city dwellers tired of being unable to turn left on Park St.

      How about city dwellers whose children have to wait 10 minutes to cross Park St. to get to their bus stop?

      How about the fact that Kevin and Maurice have singlehandedly dismissed the concerns of hundreds of citizens living IN THE CITY north of the bypass, who have begged for four-way stop signs, lights, etc. and have instead received inane little crosswalks that no one pays attention to.

      How about the fact that all the married bicycle riders who can afford to live in the city with absurd real estate assessments have wives or significant others who drive your children around, because you can’t be bothered to or don’t like driving, so you insist on imposing your personal lifestyle on the rest of us!!!

      I dislike traffic, congestion, pollution, and I do my best not to contribute, but more than anything I dislike city councilors who impose their absurdly personal and limiting world view on the rest of us instead of listening and then claim to have experience and be good listeners!

      Need I say more? Kevin, it is time for you to go.

    Comments are currently closed.

    Sideblog