Charrette weighs plans for Old Monroe Road

Aug. 31, 2013 @ 04:11 PM

Road planners held a three-day series of meetings this week with members of the public about widening Old Monroe Road.

Representatives with the N.C. Department of Transportation, land owners, local elected officials, community planners, project stakeholders and business owners met at South Piedmont Community College to talk about how the road should be widened. A team of planners and designers hosted the meetings to gather public opinion about the road. About 90 people attended and shared their ideas and wishes.

“The one question people asked when they came in here is where are the alternatives,” Seven Hills Town Planning Group representative Matt Noonkester said. “This is an environmental assessment and most people who’ve been through one of those knows that we have to come up with several alternatives.”

But before the team starts drawing lines on a map, they wanted suggestions from the people who travel the road every day.

Usually, planners produce several alternatives and present them to the public. But the average person does not know how engineers and designers made their decisions, Noonkester said.

The six-mile corridor travels through three towns and is the largest alternate route that parallels U.S. Highway 74.

There are three sections to the project. Section A runs along East John Street from Trade street in Matthews to the interchange at I-485. Section B runs from I-485 to Indian Trail-Waxhaw Road. From there to Wesley Chapel-Stouts Road makes up Section C.

see plans/page A10

Sections A and C are unfunded through the state. Two years ago, Indian Trail voters approved a roads bond to borrow money for leverage to get NCDOT to begin widening that section sooner . Section B has state funding and construction is scheduled for 2018.

“Our state legislature and our governor signed new rules and laws on how money is going to be distributed for transportation projects,” Noonkester said.  

Any project slated to begin after 2015 will be included in the new formula. Depending on needs around the state, the widening project could go on as planned. But the state might decide that other projects take precedence and push the Old Monroe widening further into the future. NCDOT officials will know when the draft list is released early next year.

Attendees made a lot of suggestions, many of which contradicted other comments, Noonkester said. Some people wanted a median, but most did not. Some wanted the road to stay small to keep the traffic volume at a minimum. Others wanted a road designed for more cars than now travel it so it will not need improvement soon after it is opened. Some encouraged landscaping while others just wanted a road that would move cars and trucks with more efficiency.

The team presented eight design concepts. The audience voted for the options they wanted planners to explore.

The most basic concept was a four-lane road with no median. NCDOT has lately preferred street design with a median or turn lane because it separates traffic and is safer for drivers. Another concept included a landscaped median with turn lanes cut through at different areas. Audience members expressed a smattering of support to the first two, but most opposed other concepts with a wider right-of-way that included bike lanes and pedestrian sidewalks.

Though the first public meetings about widening Old Monroe Road have been held, planners still want more public input. Contact Noonkester at 704-606-1620 or Kim Bereis at 704-604-5883.

Copies of the presentations will be posted on town websites for Matthews, Indian Trail and Stallings.