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Traffic Congestion and Highway Construction

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I think that report missed a pretty large bottleneck in the Concord Mills/Bruton Blvd exit where the traffic goes from 3 to 2 lanes and also has a significant amount of traffic entering the interstate northbound. And no lie, today I drove to help a friend set up her new classroom up in Northwest Cabarrus and at 10:40am I averaged maybe 15-20mph between exits 49 and 52. There weren't any accidents at all to merit this slowdown, it just kind of happened. Even the traffic headed southbound was pretty heavy with semis at that time but was still flowing at speed from what I could tell. So I believe the bigger issue up there is not where traffic grows from 2 to 4 lanes (obviously) but where relatively heavy traffic enters an already condensed interstate all at the same time.

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This article appeared on the CNBC web site today about NC raising taxes to cover road construction and maintenance. I don't have a problem with some increases if I believed the inept NCDOT would use them properly and fairly, obviously with a better formula than they have now. But they are floating an idea of taxing people for how much they drive! First 12,000 miles is free, after that you pay! I drive 35,000 miles per year, mostly out of state, do they plan on taxing me for that? This is a crazy idea. I assume the inspection station would read your odometer, then the state would send you a bill. Got to be kidding me!

From CNBC

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Let's not forget that Mecklenburg added close to 200,000 residents since the last census, more than the entire population of most counties in this state and does not need to wait around while we widen the interestates in sections that pass through the bugtussles of NC.

bugtussles?

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Back to my favorite pet peeve about Charlotte area interstates - burned out lights. Just this evening I drove back into the city on I-85 from Rowan County and the lights are working fine at the Concord Mills exit until right about the Mecklenburg County line. From that point on, until I exited at Sugar Creek, there were only a handful of functioning lights. It was raining, it was dark, and it was dangerous. It's inexcusable.

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Anyone see the Observer article on Sunday about the Gaston Parkway? I find it interesting that lots of people here complain about road $ being "diverted" to E. NC, but when there's a $1.25B+ boondoggle right in the next county, no one is outraged.

I will give the Observer some credit. It was actually a good piece of investigative reporting (something sorely lacking these days) on a subject matter that rarely gets explored by the mainstream media; that is the sprawl lobby and the politics behind it.

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Yeah I have never thought that the Garden Parkway was needed....but since it is a proposed Toll Road it won't siphon off as much money from the Road Funds.

It also may not get used very much. Look at the 385 bypass in Greenville SC. They built it to relieve congestion on 85, $1 toll. You go on it and its deserted. I use it because its easier to get to my customers in Donaldson Center, but among the locals, its a joke.

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The Southern Connector (I-185) in Gville is a huge failure. It will be a long time before that road pays for itself, meanwhile the taxpayers of SC have to foot the bill. The problem there is that no common sense was used to plan the thing. Even with no traffic (not that there ever is any) there is negligible time savings compared with using 385. In theory it was supposed to generate a lot of growth, and while there is some new growth in that part of Greenville County, its still not significant enough to warrant an interstate.

The other problem is that its not a $1 toll if you drive the who length of it. Its TWO $1 tolls. So you have to pay $2 to drive a road that doesn't save you any time, and doesn't really provide access to any major employment centers at either end.

With regard to the Garden Parkway, IMO the only advantage to it is that it would provide another road across the Catawba River. I'd rather them build two or three bridges with that money than build one very long and unnecessary road.

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The Southern Connector (I-185) in Gville is a huge failure. It will be a long time before that road pays for itself, meanwhile the taxpayers of SC have to foot the bill. The problem there is that no common sense was used to plan the thing. Even with no traffic (not that there ever is any) there is negligible time savings compared with using 385. In theory it was supposed to generate a lot of growth, and while there is some new growth in that part of Greenville County, its still not significant enough to warrant an interstate.

The other problem is that its not a $1 toll if you drive the who length of it. Its TWO $1 tolls. So you have to pay $2 to drive a road that doesn't save you any time, and doesn't really provide access to any major employment centers at either end.

With regard to the Garden Parkway, IMO the only advantage to it is that it would provide another road across the Catawba River. I'd rather them build two or three bridges with that money than build one very long and unnecessary road.

Yes, I meant 185, sorry, we are talking about the same road! And that is a good point, it really doesn't save much except for a few extra stoplights in my case. And true, I rarely go beyond Hwy 25, so I forgot about the other $1 toll! I expense tolls, so I don't care, but if someone used it for their daily commute, even at just $1 each way, you can say why it is under-utilized.

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Yeah I have never thought that the Garden Parkway was needed....but since it is a proposed Toll Road it won't siphon off as much money from the Road Funds.

Not quite. Toll projects almost never pay for themselves. (What? roads are subsidized???) In fact, the tolls are only likely to pay for about half of the total cost of the project, $1.25B. In fact, state taxpayers would have to fork over $35M per year for 39 years to help fund the portion of the cost that tolls won't cover, which amounts to $1.365B in payments. That is one hellava mortgage.

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Yes, I meant 185, sorry, we are talking about the same road! And that is a good point, it really doesn't save much except for a few extra stoplights in my case. And true, I rarely go beyond Hwy 25, so I forgot about the other $1 toll! I expense tolls, so I don't care, but if someone used it for their daily commute, even at just $1 each way, you can say why it is under-utilized.

You're right. I wasn't trying to argue, just adding to what you were saying to make the point that the Garden Parkway is unecessary and that there shoudl be other options considered by NCDOT to connect Gaston to Mecklenburg.

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....the Garden Parkway is unecessary and that there shoudl be other options considered by NCDOT to connect Gaston to Mecklenburg.

The NCDOT does not build or have the authority to bill toll roads in this state. The Garden Parkway is a project of the NC Turnpike Authority.

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You're right, but I'm saying NCDOT should consider other options because they are the only entity that can build roads in the unincorporated parts of the counties.

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You're right, but I'm saying NCDOT should consider other options because they are the only entity that can build roads in the unincorporated parts of the counties.

That isn't correct. The NC Turnpike Authority can too as they will with the Garden Parkway. The NCDOT will not be involved with building a competing road project to it. BTW there is no decision to build this parkway. The record of decision won't be until late 2010 at the earliest.

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You're right. I wasn't trying to argue, just adding to what you were saying to make the point that the Garden Parkway is unecessary and that there shoudl be other options considered by NCDOT to connect Gaston to Mecklenburg.

No, I didn't think you were arguing. I got the road name wrong the first time.

It is hard to believe the GP would pay off. I mean, how do they know? Did they interview people on I85 and 485 to see if they would use the GP instead? The Coneector fiasco in Greenville is proof that just because it looks good on paper doesn't mean it will work!

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No, I didn't think you were arguing. I got the road name wrong the first time.

It is hard to believe the GP would pay off. I mean, how do they know? Did they interview people on I85 and 485 to see if they would use the GP instead? The Coneector fiasco in Greenville is proof that just because it looks good on paper doesn't mean it will work!

It certainly has the potential to drive growth, that part of gaston county is basically uninhabited and doesn't currently have easy freeway access.

The Greenville-Charlotte comparison doesn't work, Gastonia is a bigger city than Greenville and metro Charlotte grows more in 1 1/2 year than the Greenville metro grows in 10.

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... Did they interview people on I85 and 485 to see if they would use the GP instead? The Coneector fiasco in Greenville is proof that just because it looks good on paper doesn't mean it will work!

They held a number of public workshops where that very thing was asked. As stated previously, a road in Greenville, SC is no proof at all as to what might happen in the Charlotte metro. Mecklenburg county alone as added 50% of the entire Greenville county population in just the past 7 years.

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Toll projects almost never pay for themselves. (What? roads are subsidized???) In fact, the tolls are only likely to pay for about half of the total cost of the project, $1.25B. In fact, state taxpayers would have to fork over $35M per year for 39 years to help fund the portion of the cost that tolls won't cover, which amounts to $1.365B in payments. That is one hellava mortgage.

Instead of doing the Garden Parkway like that, could NC contract with a development firm to build it -- and have the development firm pay for it and but then also collect and keep the tolls for a number of years? Or would the state still end up paying (with taxes) for part of it in this type of agreement?

It seems like this is an option that could work for for the GP, if the Turnpike Authority option isn't favored.

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It certainly has the potential to drive growth, that part of gaston county is basically uninhabited and doesn't currently have easy freeway access.

The Greenville-Charlotte comparison doesn't work, Gastonia is a bigger city than Greenville and metro Charlotte grows more in 1 1/2 year than the Greenville metro grows in 10.

Drive growth where? In Gaston County or Charlotte? If the purpose is to drive growth in Gaston County, then shouldn't Gaston be building the road as an investment? If it is to drive growth in Charlotte, it doesn't appear right now that growth in Charlotte needs a whole lot of driving.

It gets down to 'why do we build roads'. To move traffic or drive growth? If it is to drive growth, the beneficiary of the growth should pay for it. If it is to move traffic, the money should go toward a more worthwhile project, such as southern outerbelt widening or Monroe bypass.

Just my .02. :)

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That isn't correct. The NC Turnpike Authority can too as they will with the Garden Parkway. The NCDOT will not be involved with building a competing road project to it. BTW there is no decision to build this parkway. The record of decision won't be until late 2010 at the earliest.

NCDOT is the only one who has the ability to build the kind of roads/bridges that I am talking about. I did not specify toll roads.

It certainly has the potential to drive growth, that part of gaston county is basically uninhabited and doesn't currently have easy freeway access.

The Greenville-Charlotte comparison doesn't work, Gastonia is a bigger city than Greenville and metro Charlotte grows more in 1 1/2 year than the Greenville metro grows in 10.

No. Greenville is many times over the size of Gastonia. The "city" is only marginally smaller. This situation is because SC annexation laws are atrocious. But as we all know, on UP we use the "urban area" statistic as a measure, in which case Gastonia is dwarfed by Greenville. As a metro, Charlotte is larger, but the comparison is still relevant. Toll roads are not a good tool to spur growth in this context, particularly when there is not a current or projected need for the road.

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North Carolina needs to stop trying to build roads to generate sprawl and 'economic development' and instead focus on easing congestion on the worst congested corridors where growth and economic development has already happened. They also need to focus on upgrading vital links between cities, including upgrading 85, and building out the US 74 corridor and a number of others.

This obsession with trying the generate sprawl by inventing a freeway need in an undeveloped area of a metro is getting very old.

Just a few weeks ago, we left Charlotte at 4:45 and went west on 85 through Gaston County. We didn't even dip below 45 let alone sit in the kind of traffic you'd see in almost any other road leading out of the city.

It will take a while for the new order to seep through our culture, but the obsessions of recent generations (including the one currently in power) with building out communities in extreme auto-dependency must stop. We've reached a new era of energy scarcity and competition, and we have to be smarter about the energy efficiency of our transportation and city designs or our region will face relative obsolescence.

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^ If only Hoyle and the folks in Gaston would get that message. The amazing thing to me is that all of this is taking place when everyone knows there is no future in an oil-based economy, and folks in the region have now seen the success Charlotte has had with transit, and yet still you have the Huntersville's and the Gastonia's who don't get it. Nevermind the incredible waste of taxpayer dollars. The real outrage is that leaders in many adjoining counties aren't pushing harder for mass transit to their counties, when the formula for success is staring them right in the face. It's like all of these guys who have been fighting for their pet highway/sprawl projects for two decades are still fighting tooth and nail, despite every piece of evidence that they don't make sense (given the global energy and economic situation) and are a complete waste of the taxpayer's money.

How much better off would Gastonia be if they pushed for commuter rail to the airport & Uptown Charlotte? There is already a rail line there (that actually was the state's first interurban transit line in the early 1900s). Build that line and right away, you would have direct access to the region's airport, job, and event center. Downtown Gastonia would see millions in new investment that might otherwise take several decades to generate.

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^ The real outrage is that leaders in many adjoining counties aren't pushing harder for mass transit to their counties,

Aren't pushing harder???? They're actually pushing back! Their small minded attitude will always stand in the way of progress. Mooresville, Gastonia, etc. would most definitely benefit from a regional commuter rail system, but their leaders can't see past their noses. Just like Pineville and the Blue Line, which is why it stops st 485. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

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