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Traffic Congestion and Highway Construction


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That slideshow eases the pain a bit. Also, I understand that turnpikes are different from loops are different from roads are different from transit. However, stepping back and taking a simple-man's point-of-view is what frustrates me.

That is: In NC, there is a LIMITED supply of money and resources, and essentially an UNLIMITED supply of need. Given that, does another road from Gastonia to Charlotte really make sense?

I agree and it's pretty clear that the main purpose of this project is to spur economic development in Gaston County (and I think we can all agree that this county could use some economic development).

However, I would have much rather them use these funds to build a HOT lane system in Charlotte along I-77 from Uptown to South Carolina and possibly up through North Mecklenburg/Lake Norman.

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Some new pics were posted of the I-77 toll project. Also, a newsletter update was posted. Pics: https://www.i77express.com/gallery/i-77-express-construction-works-april-2019/ Newsletter: htt

Assortment of recent I-77 traffic/construction photos via NCDOT 

The darkness on highways/interchanges around Uptown is a bigger pet peeve for me vs. buildings lining the highway. 

Posted Images

I agree and it's pretty clear that the main purpose of this project is to spur economic development in Gaston County (and I think we can all agree that this county could use some economic development).

Count me in as a dissenter then. I think this part of the county should remain as open space. Even Gastonia needs to minimize its footprint (sprawl). It's already bad enough looking down from Crowders Mountain and seeing crappy subdivisions at the base of the mountain.

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Problem is the Turnpike Authority is legally limited to only tolling new capacity. Hence, unless you're widening for a High Occupany Toll (HOT) lane, you're building new facilities. You cannot legally take a free lane from I-85 inside Mount Holly, which would link up better with a widening of I-85 in Gastonia with HOT lanes. And obviously, widening I-85 for new HOT lanes separate from those already crossing the Catawba River would be too cost prohibitive.

Until the public can politically accept converting some free lanes into toll lanes, the Turnpike Authority will largely be limited to building entirely new facilities, instead of adding managed capacity to existing corridors. And to keep costs low, new facilities will go farther away from existing development. But then, as a consequence, new corridors will shift development patterns, or encourage sprawl.

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It is old news, but true nonetheless about the State Senator (Sen David Hoyle, google it).

Regardless if a new road can pay for itself by its users, it is clearly "needed" and in demand. A road that no one needs would not be able to get people to pay for it. The investment grade analysis of the toll revenue determined that it would be able to support the building of the road.

I should also add that this isn't really sprawl, as it is only 4.5 miles from the center of the city of Gastonia. Just because it isn't needed by Charlotteans as much, who can easily use 485, doesn't mean it will not be useful for the residents and industries of the city of Gastonia. It isn't like it is trying to make Gaston county any more of a bedroom community than now. In fact, I think Gaston has the lower percentage of commuters to Charlotte than Cabarrus and Union because of the river.

I don't like this project as much as countless others in Charlotte, but it doesn't take away from them at all (unlike the Monroe Bypass, which is in our division and uses some general transportation money in addition to toll revenue) and does help expand our infrastructure.

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Problem is the Turnpike Authority is legally limited to only tolling new capacity. Hence, unless you're widening for a High Occupany Toll (HOT) lane, you're building new facilities. You cannot legally take a free lane from I-85 inside Mount Holly, which would link up better with a widening of I-85 in Gastonia with HOT lanes. And obviously, widening I-85 for new HOT lanes separate from those already crossing the Catawba River would be too cost prohibitive.

Until the public can politically accept converting some free lanes into toll lanes, the Turnpike Authority will largely be limited to building entirely new facilities, instead of adding managed capacity to existing corridors. And to keep costs low, new facilities will go farther away from existing development. But then, as a consequence, new corridors will shift development patterns, or encourage sprawl.

Isn't the Charlotte Region Fast Lane study separate from the NC Turnpike Authority?

http://ww.charmeck.org/fastlanes/home.htm

We have too few lanes as it is to convert any of them to HOT lanes. Instead of widening the highway and adding more free lanes, I think they should consider managed toll lanes to add capacity. I-77 through Huntersville/Lake Norman seems to be the best candidate and I thought the only way to widen I-77 from Uptown to SC is HOT lanes...

Edited by nyxmike
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It is old news, but true nonetheless about the State Senator (Sen David Hoyle, google it).

Regardless if a new road can pay for itself by its users, it is clearly "needed" and in demand. A road that no one needs would not be able to get people to pay for it. The investment grade analysis of the toll revenue determined that it would be able to support the building of the road.

I should also add that this isn't really sprawl, as it is only 4.5 miles from the center of the city of Gastonia. Just because it isn't needed by Charlotteans as much, who can easily use 485, doesn't mean it will not be useful for the residents and industries of the city of Gastonia. It isn't like it is trying to make Gaston county any more of a bedroom community than now. In fact, I think Gaston has the lower percentage of commuters to Charlotte than Cabarrus and Union because of the river.

I don't like this project as much as countless others in Charlotte, but it doesn't take away from them at all (unlike the Monroe Bypass, which is in our division and uses some general transportation money in addition to toll revenue) and does help expand our infrastructure.

I don't see how it's "clearly 'needed' and in demand". In demand perhaps by Hoyle and Pittenger.

Driving through Gastonia itself, one can see plenty of brownfields, abandoned mills, empty lots, and loads of industrial areas directly beside already developed railroads and interstate. Why, in heaven's name destroy yet 22 more miles of land, even if it's only 4.5 miles outside Gastonia? One day, we'll look out from Crowders Mountain and see a carpet industrial buildings, strip malls, vinyle-sided slums and parking lots.

I'm sorry if I'm bitter on this topic, but I've always had a soft spot for the few remaing patches, however small, of nature left in the Piedmont. Look at any road map to see it's already choppped up with roads for progress.

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Most people go to Crowder's Mountain to see development, Charlotte's Skyline, and it is already full of sprawl and ugliness in the foreground in Gastonia. Development so close to Gastonia is inevitable. Did it stop Charlotte's outward growth when Rt 4 became just a road instead of a freeway? Instead, in 20 years we'll have that development but will not have the infrastructure corridors, and we risk choking the core county like many other places have experienced.

So was the Blue line only in demand by McCrory and Parks Helms when they pushed for that? Or does the fact that there is sufficient ridership to justify the costs mean that it is in demand and useful for the general population the must transport their bodies and goods from point a to point b?

If this road can charge a toll and compete with a free alternative and still have enough usage to finance a billion dollar construction cost, then by definition it would be in demand (simple supply and demand). Since this is in the sphere of public infrastructure then that demand implies that the infrastructure was needed by those people. But I can strike the second part, and go back to just demand.

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Most people go to Crowder's Mountain to see development,

Wow. You lost me there.

Perhaps I mix with Sierra Club-types too much, but that's 180 degrees opposite of what I hear when I hike up there.

Habitat fragmentation is the number one reason for species extinction. Not hunting, not pollution, but fragmentation. Our state, along with the mindset that our resources are unlimited, are the chief reasons we're losing our treasures. Sure, we can live without bobcats, american chestnut trees, spider lilies, etc., but all these things are just the canaries in a cage.

For people coming from more populated areas of the world, it must look like we have an abundance of nature. I've lived in places like Santiago, Sao Paulo, Koln, London, etc. and it does seem relative. But, I have to say, it disappointments me to no end to see how other natives of this state want to continue chopping it up into little pieces. Just look at any road map and compare it to other states. We must have twice as many roads here than anywhere else.

Anyway, it's a lost cause as there's too much money involved, but I'm disappointed in the attitude that one more industrial corridor to provide jobs, one more highway to encourage progress, whatever that is, is still so prevalent. Let's keep recycling downtowns and areas we've already industrialized. I deliberately keep my own business in an old industrial area even though it would be much cheaper to move to Concord. I live uptown, because I can't bear the thought of contributing to suburbia, and I even sail in lieu of motorboating because I like the peace and quiet. But, that's just me.

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Isn't the Charlotte Region Fast Lane study separate from the NC Turnpike Authority?

I was advocating that the Turnpike Authority, which is now part of NCDOT, start looking at projects that add toll lanes to existing corridors, instead of always building entirely new corridors. Since NCDOT is strapped for cash, their Turnpike Authority will be the one building the most miles of new highway in the coming decade. As a result, I'd hate to see sprawling new turnpikes built that encourage sprawl, while little capacity is added to existing highways where people already live.

To address this problem, the State legislature should consider allowing some conversion of free lanes to toll lanes. For example, if one to two existing lanes of I-85 could be tolled where you already have three or more general purpose lanes, you'd have a revenue stream to widen all of I-85, including Gaston County and even the Yadkin River Bridge. Likewise, tolling the inside lane of Independence could pay for completing an expressway out to 485 to link up with the Monroe By-Pass.

Tolls are the solution to keep adding to North Carolina's freeway/expressway miles. But they should be used more so to better manage existing corridors where people already live and work, less so to build entirely new turnpikes that will shift development patterns.

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Gastonia is a growing city, and a city that has a lot of social and economic connections to the larger city, Charlotte, nearby. Let's say that the Garden Parkway is canceled. This area will still be urbanized (read: suburbanized) in the next decade or two because it is on the edge of the current city limits, only a few miles from the core of the city of Gastonia. And there will still be trucks and cars going between Gastonia and Charlotte. But what will be different is that there will not be as much infrastructure for those people and vehicles. Sadly, withholding freeways or infrastructure doesn't stop growth (Union county is a perfect example of a fast growing county with no freeways), it just forces those people onto smaller roads, to pollute more and use more gas.

My comment about Crowders mountain included a key appositive phrase "Charlotte's skyline". I obviously know that people who take the time to hike up a mountain are there to get away from the city and enjoy nature, so my comment was cheeky. But still, every time I have been to the top, everyone is standing and sitting on the rocks that face east toward Charlotte, not the other directions where you see treetops. Certainly no one wants to see the tract homes developments and industrial parks that are already built up in the foreground in Gaston county, but they are already there and it doesn't stop visitors. Those industrial warehouses on 74 are in the city of Gastonia, by the way, which has been there for more than a century and will not be returning to nature anytime soon, just like the industrial warehouses of 29 and 74 in Charlotte.

This road is actually less damaging to the environment than the Monroe Bypass which still hasn't even resolved how to avoid further endangering an endangered species. So it seems that the arguments being directed against the Garden Parkway are more or less arguments against all new freeways, and that is fair. But even while I totally agree with the need to preserve the environment at large, I do not believe the stopping infrastructure investments in a major metropolitan area and in one of the largest cities in the state will actually meet that goal.

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My comment about Crowders mountain included a key appositive phrase "Charlotte's skyline". I obviously know that people who take the time to hike up a mountain are there to get away from the city and enjoy nature, so my comment was cheeky.

This road is actually less damaging to the environment than the Monroe Bypass which still hasn't even resolved how to avoid further endangering an endangered species. So it seems that the arguments being directed against the Garden Parkway are more or less arguments against all new freeways, and that is fair. But even while I totally agree with the need to preserve the environment at large, I do not believe the stopping infrastructure investments in a major metropolitan area and in one of the largest cities in the state will actually meet that goal.

Thank goodness you weren't entirely serious. Yeah, it's fascinating to be able to get your bearings up there, be it by recognizing uptown Charlotte, Grandfather Mountain, or even Gastonia, but one of the reasons people look in that direction so often is because the northwest face is pretty gnarly. I find myself hypnotized in trying to pick out Mt. Mitchel, Grandfather, etc.

Obviously, we'll never agree about the need for this road. It seems pretty rural to me. I will remind you that, a lot of people are counting on this road in order to promote industry and progress. As NYXMike said, "I agree and it's pretty clear that the main purpose of this project is to spur economic development in Gaston County (and I think we can all agree that this county could use some economic development)" As far as promoting development, I agree with him that there's nothing lke a good road to do that, just as water, sewer and zoing do too.

As far as the Monroe bypass, I'm against that too. I'd rather they just straighten out 218.

If we could build these freeways and interstates like portions of 64 out East, where they become elevated in places to accomodate wildlife, I'd be a little more receptive.

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  • The tolls will only pay for a portion of the facility cost... I think it may be in the neighborhood of 60% but not sure
  • The toll revenues assumed are based on a study forecast, and are not guaranteed to materialize (Greenville)
  • The state of NC is on the hook for completing the revenue stream to cover the gap that tolls will not finance
  • The forecast that supports the financial plan (requires that people actually use the road) is based in part on speculative development in the county

It's a bad idea to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to support a new road that exists chiefly to support poor local government land use planning that would destroy an attractive rural setting. I find it hilarious that the PPT included a slide talking about context... as if any of those pastoral scenes will somehow be respected by a new multi-lane highway. Utter nonsense.

Where is the study of local land use planning and regulations, how those decisions are made and how they influence the transportation solutions? What about commuter rail to Charlotte, ramp metering, congestion pricing, or HOT lanes on I-85? Could any of those ideas be at least a part of the solution? I don't see any serious discussion of that, despite some dissatisfaction among citizens in the affected area about how the road might change the rural character in southern Gaston county.

A lot of of people seem enamored by the newness of NCTA and that they are not NCDOT (which everyone likes). The approach may be improved, but at the end of the day, they are still just building out an 1980s era highway plan, which doesn't strike me as terribly innovative or new in any way.

And by the way, the above rant could be applied to any number of crappy highway projects in NC.

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I was looking at Independence Boulevard tonight on the map and thought about something I hadn't before. Even though it is only officially through Idlewild, the lack of lights between Idlewild to Harris, so it will keep traffic flowing until there.

http://mumpo.org/Independence_Blvd_Widening.htm

https://apps.dot.state.nc.us/Projects/Search/Detail.aspx?find=6972d48c-4873-4fb5-b32e-daa129636b51

This project almost got delayed because the governor wanted to use the money to build 485 using the money from this project, but luckily the local officials sent her back to the drawing board, so this project is still going to happen in the short term.

So in a few years (after hundreds of sob stories on the local news about the impact to businesses), we'll have interchanges at Sharon Amity and Idlewild, with a bridge for Conference Dr. That project is only 1.9 miles long, but builds interchanges with significant roads in southeast Charlotte. There are no lights, though, for the mile and a half between Idlewild and Harris, which means that 2.6 miles more will be free of lights for a total of 6.3 miles. That is 60% longer than the current section with no lights.

By mid year, the next 7 year State Transportation Improvement Program will be determined and we'll see how funding goes for next 2 mile section to just past Sardis Road. Once that project is complete, then there will be only 3 totals for the whole way to 485 (Sam Newell, Windsor Square, and Matthews-Mint Hill).

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^And those 3 remaining signals are all in Matthews. It's my understanding that Charlotte has accepted Independence's painful transition into a limited-access highway, while Matthews hasn't quite yet come around. I imagine it's linked, in part, to the age of retail in each. Charlotte appears ready to rip the bandage off and accept some scarring, while Matthews still wants to milk its strip centers. But give it a few more years, and shifting shopping patterns may have Matthews singing the same tune.

On a more optimistic note, once you reach Sam Newell, the Southeast Rapid Transit Corridor is no longer along or within the middle of Independence. So while Matthews may not want to give up its retail-serving signals at the moment, building a transit median as far as Sardis or Sam Newell (depends on alternative) literally paves the way (if BRT) for transit.

Indeed, this next widening to Conference could possibly provide a Minimum Operating Segment for a Bus Rapid Transit line. But with rubber tires lacking the appeal of rails, therein lies the greater dilemma with this corridor, and a significant hurdle to starting its renaissance.

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Totally wrong about Matthews - at least from an official perspective (don't know how citizens feel). The Town is simply at the "end of the line" for the Independence upgrade to a freeway... They actually have developed a fairly nice system of partially complete roads on either side of Independence to make up for the lack of connectivity once the freeway comes through....Independence Pointe Parkway and Northeast Parkway. The collector roads will help existing retail and are something Charlotte doesnt have on its side. By all means though, I don't believe anyone there is clinging to the traffic signals. It's more a matter of you can't remove them without building expensive bridges/interchanges that aren't even in the budget. Hopefully the Monroe Bypass will create so much additional traffic backup that the State moves faster to fund the conversion.

On another note, it's the Union County towns that truly will not let go of the signalized intersections, hence the need for a bypass!

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Update on the Color Coded Wayfinding Signs from the City Manager:

Starting in approximately two weeks, CDOT and NCDOT will be removing old signs and installing new ones for the following categories:

1. Freeway wayfinding signs

2. On-street wayfinding signs

3. On-street parking guidance signs

4. Pedestrian wayfinding signs and map updates

NCDOT will be replacing freeway wayfinding signs on Independence Boulevard (US-74), I-77, and I-277. The City designed the new signs through a collaborative process with NCDOT.

A city contractor will install on-street wayfinding signs by May 1 and will install on-street changeable message signs and parking guidance signs by August 30. This initial phase of parking guidance signs will direct motorists to over 50% of the structured parking supply in Uptown.

City staff will install pedestrian wayfinding signs at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and in the Cultural Arts campus area by May 1. In addition, staff will update all pedestrian wayfinding maps throughout Uptown by May 1 to reflect new and relocated venues.

These are important milestones in the ongoing installation of the Center City Parking and Wayfinding Sign System which will occur over the next six months.

The project is funded by a Federal Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality grant ($3,141,800) and City CIP funds ($867,200). A future phase is anticipated to be funded from a Department of Energy/Energy Efficiency Conservation Block grant ($324,000).

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Siemens expansion:

I sure hope somebody has considered the impact to the roads of this and the first expansion. I live in Steele Creek and the thought of more than doubling the work force there is kind of scary from a traffic standpoint.

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I'm sure they considered equally to all your neighbors that moved in there too.

This is only 650 jobs we're talking about. In fact, you could argue this could reduce travel in the neighborhood if people actually got the jobs there that live there.

But to answer your question, there do not appear to be any projects to widen Westinghouse, Steel Creek or Shopton Road West anytime in the foreseeable future.

http://mumpo.org/PDFs/2030_LRTP/06_2030_LRTP_TransportationPlan.pdf

In the 2030 Transportation Plan, widening Steele Creek between 485 and 49 is ranked 73rd in the list of projects on the 2030 horizon year. Pretty much that means you'll see that project be late in the 2020s. Shopton Road and Westinghouse are not part of the plans from now thru 2030.

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I'm sure they considered equally to all your neighbors that moved in there too.

This is only 650 jobs we're talking about. In fact, you could argue this could reduce travel in the neighborhood if people actually got the jobs there that live there.

But to answer your question, there do not appear to be any projects to widen Westinghouse, Steel Creek or Shopton Road West anytime in the foreseeable future.

http://mumpo.org/PDF...rtationPlan.pdf

In the 2030 Transportation Plan, widening Steele Creek between 485 and 49 is ranked 73rd in the list of projects on the 2030 horizon year. Pretty much that means you'll see that project be late in the 2020s. Shopton Road and Westinghouse are not part of the plans from now thru 2030.

Yeah, I knew about the 2030 thing for 160, so I wasn't holding out much hope there! The state did improve the 160/Westinghouse intersection, but then it took the city over a year to install the turning signal that was included in the project (it was the city's responsibility)!

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