NCDOT reps talk road projects

Feb. 05, 2013 @ 10:03 PM

Representatives from the North Carolina Department of Transportation gave updates about county road projects Tuesday during a Business Leader’s Breakfast hosted by the Union County Chamber of Commerce.

John Underwood, a district engineer with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and Rick Baucom, an assistant division construction engineer, spoke about upcoming road projects and offered an update about the Monroe Bypass and other road improvement plans.

“We have a large amount of bridge replacements between now and 2018,” Underwood said Tuesday morning.

He started his presentation with some background information about NCDOT and plans for upcoming road projects in Union County.

NCDOT is divided into 14 different divisions and District 10 covers Union and Anson counties as well as Mecklenburg, Stanly and Cabarrus counties, Underwood said.

Some road projects he mentioned during his presentation were plans for an extension of Rea Road at NC 16 scheduled for construction in 2017, a future widening of Old Charlotte Highway, an addition of a roundabout in Weddington at NC 84 and Weddington Matthews Road and improvements to the Potter Road and Pleasant Plains Road intersection in Stallings, which often sees a lot of congestion.

Baucom also offered so thoughts on the Monroe Bypass and responded to questions and concerns aboutthe issue.

“Now we’re looking at probably the last quarter of this year with the probability of creeping into 2014 before our new record of decision,” Baucom said in reference to the current state of the Monroe Bypass.

Without the record of decision, there is little work they can do to move forward with the bypass, he said.

He spoke a little about setbacks caused by the recent lawsuit filed against the proposed bypass and emphasized that they are working to be thorough in all their analysis and assessments when it comes to

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the bypass and making sure everything is correct.

“We’re trying to be as thorough as we can in our assessments, our analysis,” he said.

A federal court of appeals previously halted work on the proposed Monroe Bypass after concerns were raised about the project’s environmental study and other issues.

“The reason we’re not building the bypass now is we lost the lawsuit,” Baucom said in response to a question about issues currently blocking the Monroe Bypass.

The problem they ran into was having the bypass in their no build future analysis, he said.

“Unfortunately in their future model, it included the 20-mile Monroe Bypass in there. So when we found that out, it was really late in the process,” Baucom said.

When they found out about it, it was already in court, and they unsuccessfully tried to explain to the judge that having the bypass in there was not a major issue, he said.

“We felt like and still feel like if we take it out or were to take it out that it will be an insignificant change. That’s part of what we’ve done is to go back, remodel that with that piece taken out,” Baucom said.

Multiple attendees of the event, which included chamber members, elected officials and others, had questions and comments about the Bypass’ progress and ways to get it to move forward.

“I want to challenge everyone in this room to reach out to your chamber (Chamber of Commerce) and support anything we can do to help get this project going,” Theresa Byers, director of events and programs for the Union County Chamber of Commerce, said during Tuesday’s breakfast.

She mentioned that the NCDOT is behind the Bypass and encouraged those in attendance to write letters, contact representatives and use other techniques to help show the importance of the project to Union County and to help it get closer to becoming a reality.

“We challenge you to reach out to your chamber and let us know what we can do. Write us letters and we’ll send those on to our legislators, our governor and do anything that we can to get this project going,” Byers said.

Also during Tuesday’s Business Leader’s Breakfast, Underwood spoke a little about other road concerns in the county including the intersection of Highway 200 and Highway 218 where two fatal wrecks have already happened this year.

“In 2009, we made improvements to (Highway) 200 and (Highway) 218,” Underwood said.

Since the two fatalities at the intersection this year, a section study is now being conducted on it, he said.

After the meeting, thoughts about the Monroe Bypass were still on people’s minds.

“It’s really hurting a lot of folks,” Drew Boggs, president of Boggs Paving, said.

He referred to the delay in the bypass’ construction.

In his opinion, the bypass is something the county really needs, Boggs said.

He and others at the event said they were not happy to hear about the lawsuit holding up the project.

“I think the bypass is one of the major issues coming up in Union County,” Ted Dellinger, who attended the morning’s event, said.

There are a lot of needs in Union County and they are doing their best to address those needs in the coming year, Underwood said in reference to the upcoming road projects.