Support for bypass erodes

May. 01, 2013 @ 02:26 PM

A growing number of the county’s elected officials are voicing criticism of the delayed Monroe Bypass project and are calling for consideration of alternative projects.

Marvin Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Burman has given presentations about the bypass, the appeals court decision that halted work on the road and the overlooked alternatives to ease traffic congestion in Union County.

“The people who I’ve been presenting to are pretty open to it,” Burman said. “I’ve talked to town councils, elected officials, neighborhood groups, land owners and anyone else who’s concerned the the progress of the road.”

He is not opposed to the bypass, Burman said, but just wants residents to understand why the project was delayed.

“In these presentations, I say that I’m not going to sugar-coat it. The (North Carolina) Turnpike Authority lied,” Burman said.

While some towns have approved a supporting resolution circulated by the Union County Chamber of Commerce, members of other town boards are voicing desire to look again at alternatives like widening Highway 74.

See Bypass/Page A11

Not long ago, Burman delivered a presentation to the Hemby Bridge Town Council. Its mayor, Kevin Pressely, said he believed the bypass would relieve traffic on 74. But after reading the N.C. Department of Transportation studies and learning engineers estimated only a small congestion improvement, he began to favor smaller, less costly alternatives.

“No doubt that we need something like a bypass, but there’s a lot of good information saying that this bypass won’t improve traffic on 74,” Pressley said. “If there’s a way to go about looking at different ways to solve these problems, I think we should explore that.”

While there are some who want the road despite flaws in the studies justifying its construction, Pressley said elected officials have a responsibility to insist studies are done correctly and money is spent only where needed. Especially when the road comes so close to the community he represents.

“For me, this isn’t a situation where we want to stand and block the bulldozers from going through, but we do want to be sure everything is done right. We owe that to the people who elected us,” Pressley said.

Stallings’ Lynda Paxton, Fairview’s Libby Long, Mineral Springs’ Rick Becker and Weddington’s Walker Davidson have also added their names to those calling for a longer look at bypass plans. While some represent towns far from the bypass footprint, they argue that what happens in one community echoes all around the county.

There are still advocates of building the road despite the appeals court decision, Burman said it is important ordinary county residents to hold the state accountable to the same federal laws everyone else must follow.

“My attitude is that if I had millions of dollars invested in land along a highway that may or may not be built, I’d want to ignore state and federal laws too,” Burman said.