SELC: Bypass won’t solve traffic woes on 74
Though not invited to speak during Tuesday’s Indian Trail Town Council meeting, the Southern Environmental Law Center made a presentation Wednesday critical of the project and the N.C. Department of Transportation.
The SELC sued to stop bypass construction because of perceived errors in the N.C. Turnpike Authority’s environmental impact study of the project. A federal appellate court agreed with the SELC and ordered the project halted until the NCDOT revised studies to be more accurate.
While the revision is underway, the SELC holds community meetings about the bypass and alternatives it feels the state did not properly consider.
SELC attorney Kym Hunter summarized the project’s history to about 30 people who attended the meeting at South Piedmont Community College.
Using data compiled by the NCDOT, Hunter refuted some of the popular misconceptions about the bypass.
Many people want the bypass because it will take traffic off (U.S. Highway) 74, she said.
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“However, DOT regularly admits that the bypass was never intended to fix 74 and is not expected to have much of an effect on 74,” Hunter said. “In fact, in one meeting, DOT admitted it would not be in favor of changes to 74 that would have a competing interest in the bypass.”
The only way the bypass will save drivers the 30 to 50 minutes travel time that NCDOT projects by 2035, is if traffic congestion on 74 becomes much worse.
NCDOT’s most recent documents state that in the first years of being opening, the bypass will save between 8 and 10 minutes for someone driving from Marshville to Charlotte.
“At a cost of $900 million, that’s a cost of approximately $100 million per mile,” Hunter said.
Commercial and non-commercial vehicles will pay different tolls. For most commuters, the price will be $2.58.
“At that price and for a travel time that’s only eight to ten minutes faster, would anyone really use the bypass, especially if when you consider truckers are going to have to be paying $10 a trip to save maybe ten minutes,” she said.
Most people believe the bypass will bring economic growth. But studies done by the NCDOT estimate growth of about 1 percent, Hunter said. It also says that the bypass will affect what little growth is expected.
“What they’re saying is that the growth will shift to interchanges and to Marshville,” Hunter said. “For areas like downtown Monroe, the growth might shift out of there.”