monsoon

Traffic Congestion and Highway Construction

2448 posts in this topic

I'm not saying that we shouldn't build new roads or widen existing ones: streets are the lifeblood of any city, and good streets are the city. But there is a point of diminishing returns that we have to accept for any road - to suggest that some highways are exempt from that rule will just keep us trapped in the current cycle of build-widen-build-widen more-build more.

I agree with that. Yes, there is a point of diminishing returns. For an urban area, six to eight lanes should be the maximum. I think once you go beyond eight lanes it is pretty much hopeless. Two lanes on each side is what you see in rural areas not in urban areas. Even in European cities that are much more pedestrian/transit friendly have six to eight lane highways. I think going beyond eight lanes is when HOT/toll express lanes should be considered. I think the ironic part is that there has to be traffic in order to encourage transit use. Strict parking regulations/high parking rates also seem to encourage transit use.

Edited by nyxmike

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^I agree.

The other problem that isn't being mentioned here is peoples perception of this analogy: [faster:good :: slower:bad]. Efficiency needs to be considered too. It takes a while to drive around central Charlotte because there are so many lights, but even at peak hour you can still navigate it with relatively little delay because the network is so efficient. Sometimes I think people want all roads to operate during peak hour as they would on Saturday morning.

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I remember during Independence construction and people started to avoid it like the plague, there were quotes from people saying, their alternate route on the surface streets took significantly less time than their previous trip. I think part of the problem is that interstates have an unbeatable branding power, where people still use them even if they when they no longer meet their needs in the same way. Furthermore, [some] people see investment in alternates like transit as stealing away funding from their favorite brand of transport, but the key is that the more people who are taking a trip on transit are NOT taking a trip on the interstate. There is a curve of diminishing marginal returns for freeway capacity and at some point more is not better because there are always new bottlenecks created.

Hopefully, road-building in cities will be returned to the cities along with options for funding. The state seems overly focused on interstate capacity as the primary means of moving commuters. Cities seem to make more efficient plans that include better street networks, computerized timing, sidewalks, and transit.

I agree that we do need to boost our statewide arteries up to 6-8 lanes, especially 85 which only has 2 legs to go until its capacity is fairly uniform throughout the state. But we need serious investment in fixing our culdesac-laden street network and the lack of high capacity transit options.

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http://www.charmeck.org/NR/rdonlyres/eu4d5...pleteFY2009.pdf

The city is not able to build too many roads at once because of relatively low budget for them.

The 2008 bonds funded:

- Rea Rd Improvements from Carmel to 51

- Community House Rd

- Kenilworth-Pearl St Bridge Intersection

- Right of Way for the IBM-N Tryon connection, which would include a bridge across I85

- Fred Alexander Blvd (NC27 - NC16)

- Statesville Rd widening (85 - Sunset)

- Little Rock realignment to connect to Fred Alexander Blvd

- Extending University City Blvd west from Neal to the new Mallard Creek Rd, which the state is building.

The 2010 bonds will fund:

- Oakdale Rd Improvements

- Robinson Church Rd Improvements

- Johnston-Oehler Rd Improvements

- Ballantyne Commons/Elm St Intersection

- Freeland/South intersection

- Auten Rd Extension

- Beatties Ford Widening (Sunset to Capps Mine)

- Idlewild Widening (Harris to Valley Grove)

Fairly boring changes and very slow progress. I am glad to see, though, that the Mallard Creek/Graham/City/Nevin improvements are all coming together over the next few years. That will greatly improve the traffic flow in Derita around the time when the North Line is built (which has a Derita station that will likely be used by some 85 commuters). They could then hop on the high capacity City Blvd (University City Blvd) and go west all the way into Derita to take the train. Also, as mentioned in the Observer, the Mallard Creek Rd realignment will also make a 4-lane corridor from uptown to the future 485 parallel to 85, which may also create a market for transit riders at Derita.

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How did they determine the phases of 485? I am wondering because the section that is set to open tomorrow (yeah right?) seems so inconsequential to me. The most needed (77-85) section is not even on the horizon yet.

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That was prioritized by Mumpo and NCDOT. MUMPO is the planning org that includes all the appropriate parties in the region. The section that is opening soon is very important, as it effectively completes the bypass for 77 through town, helping to push a lot of trucking traffic to the airport and the industrial parks in the SE of the city out of the center of town.

I'm not sure why everyone thinks the NE section of 485 is so important, as Harris was built like a parkway, so that provides a lot of what 485 would do. There was no road like that on the western section.

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I remember during Independence construction and people started to .......

I agree that we do need to boost our statewide arteries up to 6-8 lanes, especially 85 which only has 2 legs to go until its capacity is fairly uniform throughout the state. But we need serious investment in fixing our culdesac-laden street network and the lack of high capacity transit options.

What/where are the two legs of 85 that are not 6-8 lanes?

Edited by monsoon
please don't quote an entire long post to ref. just one sentence.

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What/where are the two legs of 85 that are not 6-8 lanes?

Cabarrus County and parts of Rowan County. Most of I-85 by Salisbury and Spencer has been widened to eight lanes. Basically, I-85 is six lanes in Davidson County. It goes down to four lanes and crosses the Yadkin River, then widens to eight lanes through Spencer and Salisbury. Then it goes back to four lanes and again widens to eight lanes once you enter Mecklenburg County.

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As has already been answered, all of 85 in Cabarrus is 4-lanes. The section from 485 to NC73 in Concord is funded in the next few years because they are using Garvee Bonds (look it up). However, there are two sections that are not funded yet, one is all the way around Kannapolis in northern Cabarrus, southern Rowan north of NC73. The other is north of Spencer crossing the Yadkin bridge. The latter was about to be funded by the division that has Winston-Salem in it, but that was cancelled when NCDOT enforced the accounting of the Equity Formula law a few years ago, (they reduced the share of payments to the cities and sent that money to the Eastern NC cities who then invented projects to spend the money on.)

Anyway, they are now looking at tolls for the Yadkin river crossing because it is so expensive and on the edge of two NCDOT divisions, so neither seems to want to set aside the money to fund it outright. The section in Cabarrus is in the same NCDOT division as Charlotte, which also makes for stiff competition for the money.

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......

I'm not sure why everyone thinks the NE section of 485 is so important, as Harris was built like a parkway, so that provides a lot of what 485 would do. There was no road like that on the western section.

Harris Blvd between I-77 & I-85 is no parkway. It is a very congested road full of stoplights, varying speed limits and is surrounded by neighborhoods and schools which means school buses halting traffic during school year. The city, in its inability to say no to developers, has also allowed a number of significant strip malls to be built over the last 5 years which has made the congestion even worse. Add to that the Northlake mess at one end, and the badly designed University city at the other and I think that one could consider it one of the worse traffic disasters in the county. It can easily take 30 minutes to travel down this segment of the road.

If I need to go to the University area from Lake Norman I will simply take I-77 to I-85 and head back north. It is faster than going the Harris Blvd route. This road does not come close to what I-485 would provide. I have been traveling through this area for close to 30 years (before Harris was even there) so I have had a bit of experience in the matter.

I-485 would directly connect Lake Norman to the University area. We are talking about connecting together two areas where 300,000 people live, where there is a major state university, and where significant numbers of people work. The lack of a decent highway and transit between these two areas, which effectively forces people to travel through downtown is a major deficiency in the area's transit network. Since CATS has no plans to addresss this issue with transit, then the only viable option is the construction of this portion of I-485.

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I definitely agree that that 485 in the NE will provide a superior alternative and should be built in the next few years. My point is simply that I agreed with the prioritization to finish the stretch from Oakdale to 77 before 77 to 85 in the N.

Regardless, it is virtually complete and now there is no argument on which section comes next.

(Out of curiosity, aren't the rural E-W roads superior to coming all the way down into the city to go NE on 85 toward Cabarrus or beyond? I've never been on them, but I always thought there were a bunch of old-skool back roads that let you get between Kannapolis/Concord and Huntersville/Cornelius/Davidson.)

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A little news update: The I-85 bridge over the Yadkin River in Rowan County is on the list for the economic stimulus package being considered by Congress.

Edited by nyxmike

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(Out of curiosity, aren't the rural E-W roads superior to coming all the way down into the city to go NE on 85 toward Cabarrus or beyond? I've never been on them, but I always thought there were a bunch of old-skool back roads that let you get between Kannapolis/Concord and Huntersville/Cornelius/Davidson.)

Yeah it's possible to go UCity to the Lake via rural roads - Poplar Tent/Odell School Road - but there has been so much buildout on the "rural" roads that they are well beyond capacity now too - especially in close proximity to Concord Mills, Davidson, and Southern Iredell.

I'm with you Monsoon, the best way to get from UCity to Lake Norman is to throw out your concept of what's the most direct route, hit 85 to 77 and hope there isn't a 10 mile backup at the bottleneck at Gilliad Rd.

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(I guess everyone has problems with overdevelopment straining the roads if they are all so clogged you have to drive that far out of the way to bypass them.)

It is pretty interesting to see 485 now stretching from 1 to 12 o'clock. When I moved here, 485 was only from 5 to 7 o'clock. Not much left to complete the circle.

As an urbanist, it is a hard thing to wish for. But I do agree think that as long as there is some degree of counteraction to sprawl, that these perimeters do help reduce the need to exponentially expand the roads in the city. Charlotte has a very spotty history in this regard, but they have recently taken some steps to slow that type of activity on the east and west. In the North, they are allowing it, but at least trying to do the right changes to the surface streets (like making a grid for the Prosperity Church Rd interchange, etc.).

It is really interesting news that the Yadkin bridge is being considered for the stimulus. Frankly, that is the VERY type of project that the stimulus is intended for. The lifespan of that bridge is up in the next couple years, yet the funding is not in place, plus it is a significant route for commerce both in NC and in this region. I also bet it is Dole's last hoorah in support of her lowly Salisbury.

Perhaps if our division uses the money they 'saved' on the Monroe Bypass for speeding up 485 in the NE, hopefully they will still find a way to finish that last bottleneck on 85.

Not sure why I'm in a roads mood this week, but I guess being away from home and seeing the infrastucture built up in older cities makes me realize how far behind we are.

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I'm not sure why everyone thinks the NE section of 485 is so important, as Harris was built like a parkway, so that provides a lot of what 485 would do. There was no road like that on the western section.

Parts of Harris are considered a "Parkway" but not all of it. mainly between N Tryon and The Plaza. But to that argument I think that adding several "harris" like roads would do more to relieve congestion in that area than 485. But I suppose being able to drive in a circle is more important in this state.

It is really interesting news that the Yadkin bridge is being considered for the stimulus.

Even if the stimulus package passes there is no guarantee which projects will be funded.

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That is why I wrote 'considered'. I read up a bit on that claim, and it was reported in the papers because a congressman listed it as a likely contender for the stimulus, because they are looking for ready to go projects, and that is NC's worst bridge and the engineering has been done for the project and is ready to 'let'.

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Its my understanding that in order to be considered for this stimulus package, projects have to be ready for construction. That means planning, design, and engineering are complete. I'm assuming this means that NCDOT has had plans for the bridge, they just didn't have the money to pay for construction.

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Its my understanding that in order to be considered for this stimulus package, projects have to be ready for construction. That means planning, design, and engineering are complete. I'm assuming this means that NCDOT has had plans for the bridge, they just didn't have the money to pay for construction.

From my understanding and what has been reported in the national media, that is correct. Projects have to be ready in time for the stimulus and they can't sit on the money.

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While its hardly perfect, this is an intriguing tool: http://www.optimalhomelocation.com/RealEstateTool.html

You put in the locations you most commonly go (you can put in street intersections, ala Kings Dr at Charlottetowne Ave), and it spits out the geographic center of those points. My optimal location is approximately inside the Greek Orthodox Church on East Blvd.

I wonder how many people, through suburban design, would find themselves miles off their "center"

(via Treehugger)

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Well it's official. The next leg of 485 is supposed to open tomorrow. What an unbelievable p*****g contest this has been lately.

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Along with the I-85 Yadkin River bridge, NCDOT is hoping to get two more projects funded if the economic stimulus passes: the last portion of I-485 and the NC 73 widening in Huntersville to NC 115.

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Along with the I-85 Yadkin River bridge, NCDOT is hoping to get two more projects funded if the economic stimulus passes: the last portion of I-485 and the NC 73 widening in Huntersville to NC 115.

How quickly could they get started on the final portion of I-485 and the NC73 project? I am under the impression that both of these projects are not 'shovel ready' meaning that they would not be applicable to this stimulus package.

It would be great if all of the mentioned projects could be worked in and completed.

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How quickly could they get started on the final portion of I-485 and the NC73 project? I am under the impression that both of these projects are not 'shovel ready' meaning that they would not be applicable to this stimulus package.

It would be great if all of the mentioned projects could be worked in and completed.

Barry Moose said that if the contractor also designs the road (I-485), construction could start in one year. Not sure about NC 73 but that isn't a very big project. I think they have the plans for 73 they just don't have the funding.

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For source reference: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/politics/story/402327.html

I just hope NCDOT doesn't load up the list too large and then end up with brutal state politics when they only get 1/3 of the funds to cover the list.

I am still a bit unclear, but it still seams to me (and no one has contradicted me when I said this before) that if 485 is funded by other means, then we lose out on the money from the Loop Funds, as nothing else would eligible for that fund other than a couple of interchanges. Of course, NC may opt to update the rules for that fund to include upgrades, like in the South.

At least these stimulus funds are net new funds to transportation, whereas the previous discussion would have put general funds from our division to 485, which then would have been funded by general funds rather than loop funds.

I'm very supportive of Obama's plan to invest in infrastructure, as it not only has a considerable economic impact from construction at a time when the construction industry is hurting, but also provides a generation's worth of value for commerce.

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Right now its not clear how the money would be funneled down. It could go to state DOT's who could divvy it out to the cities/counties and MPOs or it could go directly to the cities/counties. If the money does go to NCDOT, they would have a larger input on which projects are funded in Charlotte, and IMO we would probably loose out. But again, nobody knows the details yet so its all speculation.

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