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Erase-277 (Charlotte's Downtown Loop)

Should Charlotte demolish I-277?  

143 members have voted

  1. 1. Should Charlotte demolish I-277?

    • Yes
      35
    • No
      97
    • Unsure
      11


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^ This brings up an interesting question.....what WOULD Uptown encompass if 277 wasn't there? (let's get rid of I-77 while we're at it)

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Instead of erasing the whole 277 loop, I'd vote for eliminating at least half of it, but which piece, Brookshire or Belk?

Brookshire and Belk are easily redundant. Brookshire is a more direct connection to Independence and carries more cars. However, Brookshire is harder to cap and in terms of equity has the poorest abutting neighborhoods. Then again, Belk is longer and less busy, so its demolition would free up the most land and seem to be the least missed. But as the inverse of Brookshire, Belk is easier to cap and abuts wealthier areas.

Perhaps, a mix of solutions would be best. Cap Belk around South Tryon, but convert Brookshire between Graham and 10th to an at-grade, multi-way boulevard. 11th and 12th would become the outside one-way streets with 6 to 8 new through-lanes built at-grade between 11th and 12th. The future NE line would be elevated, but I'd have Tryon switch to a huge elipse, using present-day College and Church for right-turn movements to eliminate signals, yet still slow down traffic.

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Ties nicely into something apparent in looking through the midtown ATL thread - it's downtown is really quite sprawled out when viewed from above, due to the intersecting and divisive effect of I-85. When one walks ATL's streets the feeling of disjointedness is also noticeable (IMO). Other cities like this come to mind as well that have interstates running through their hearts. Charlotte does not have this issue (also IMO), on the surface being due to no intersecting interstate and instead a small encircling loop. The question is, as alluded to above, was the loop located due to a pre-existing clumping/centralizing effect, or did it create this itself? It is partially suggested in studying the history of CLT

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Brookshire and Belk are not redundant. They serve very different routes, different neighborhoods and different connections. If you drop Brookshire, then people that currently use it would need to cut through the city to 77 or 74, which is actually a big deal. But beyond that, the whole point of having both allows for distribution of the traffic across multiple interchanges, rather than a single one.

Right now the section of 77 between Brookshire and Belk does not deal with traffic going south from Brookshire or North from Belk. If you cut one of those existing route, you'd add significant traffic to 77, which is already pretty heavily over-capacity as it is.

You also have to realize that Belk and Brookshire aren't only through-routes, they are also distributors. Belk distributes to the neighborhoods south of downtown like SouthEnd, Dilworth, Myers Park and Elizabeth as well as the southern part of downtown (3rd and 2nd Wards). Brookshire distributes to the neighborhoods north of downtown like NoDa, Belmont, and Tryon Hills, as well as the northern part of downtown (1st and 4th Wards). If you cut one of them, not only do you underserve those neighborhoods compared to current infrastructure, but you also add traffic on neighborhood streets to get to those neighborhoods.

Bottom line is that the freeways don't act as much more of a barrier than the creeks, railroads, vacant lots, and neighborhood boundaries that exist without the freeways. Yet they provide significant connections to downtown for the vast majority of the people in the region that can only get places with automobiles, bringing them in as employees, service people, tourists, customers, and residents.

As I have said before, there are many families downtown that might have one person walking for a commute with the other doing a reverse commute to a job in the suburbs. My family is one of them because there are no high schools for teachers to teach at anywhere nearby. Without Brookshire Freeway, that commute would literally double, and would burn significantly more gas. She already has to get up at 4:45 to teach the youth of this city, so to double the commute would be untenable. Of course, we could move, but generally current infrastructure is part of the decision for a job and a home choice to begin with, and NO one expects rational policy makers to REMOVE infrastructure. But of course, no rational policy maker would do such a thing. But on floor 38 of the ivory tower, they say it would be a good idea, so...

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If you look a Belk part of I277, a lot of land was taken to build it. It was built like a rural freeway with large clover leafs.

I think it could have been built in a different way without taking so much land. I would like to see as much as possible covered, out of sight giving a connect feeling to South End and Mid Town.

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If you look a Belk part of I277, a lot of land was taken to build it. It was built like a rural freeway with large clover leafs.

I think it could have been built in a different way without taking so much land. I would like to see as much as possible covered, out of sight giving a connect feeling to South End and Mid Town.

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I think some of us are underestimating how bad traffic would be in the center city without 277. People who travel in that area regularly often jump on the freeway instead of driving across the grid and its many intersections. If you take away 277, forcing those drivers into the grid, it would make for some pretty serious gridlock. This wouldn't just affect uptown; pretty much all the adjacent neighborhoods would see a significant uptick in traffic due to people trying to cut through to other parts of the city rather than using the freeway (think about trying to get from Freedom Dr. to Memorial Stadium... you'd have to go through 3 or 4 neighborhoods).

277 isn't the best-designed thing in the world, but it is underappreciated in how well it does its job. IMO, its negative side-effects are outweighed by the congestion relief that it provides.

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I see a tremendous potential for the city of Charlotte in tearing down Interstate 277. I believe that the visionary thing to do is to transform this highway into a beautifully tree-lined pedestrian friendly boulevard. Just imagine this new boulevard with wide sidewalks, tall trees and a beautifully landscaped wide median with an occasional sculpture or park bench. Some interchanges could turn into an oasis of greenery or parks which will add tremendous value and sense of place. Perhaps parts of this boulevard will have on street shoulder parking. Such a Boulevard will attract condominium developers and office buildings to be placed on the new landscape boulevard. Because this boulevard will be pedestrian friendly, one will no longer have to walk across or under a highway overpasses, but instead stroll along its wide sidewalks or take the dog for a walk or take a jog along the shaded trees. Interstate 277 literally cuts off uptown from the rest of the city leaving it in an island by itself. This new Boulevard will be able to turn a highway strip where no one wants to live or walk into an inviting area with such potential.

In many American cities there are some great avenues/boulevards that are gems, this too can be the next frontier for Center City. Folks, really close your eyes and be visionaries and dream of a future landscaped pedestrian friendly tree-lined boulevard.

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^ A wonderful dream but not gonna happen. 277 is has too much traffic being dumped onto it from or going to 74 and 16 (which are practically Interstates themselves at times), Wilkinson, etc. Where would all of those cars go? Through downtown? Not likely. A more likely scenario is what's been discussed before and seems more practical would be the capping of the John Belk to make parks and more space for buildings.

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If city leaders want to see a cap done right, they should go check out the Short North cap in Columbus. When you walk over it, you have no idea you're above a freeway. They CAN be done well.

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Cap081803_021_small.jpg

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Columbus was actually one of the examples used at the public meetings for the cap park. The cap and build idea was one of the options Charlotte will be looking at. It's been awhile since the meetings, but I think they would build the cap and then sell the air rights to a developer for the parcels rated to carry the load.

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Columbus was actually one of the examples used at the public meetings for the cap park. The cap and build idea was one of the options Charlotte will be looking at. It's been awhile since the meetings, but I think they would build the cap and then sell the air rights to a developer for the parcels rated to carry the load.

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They COULD go as high as they wanted, though with land as cheap as it is in Charlotte, I doubt they would do anything seriously verticle to keep the cost of the decking down.....what Columbus has looks about right in terms of what Charlotte should pursue....though if a developer wants to pay the infrastructure cost to go highrise, I say let them.

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Though I doubt they are looking at removing the John Belk, it's nice to see that the city cares about how it will interact with the urban environment.

The City of Charlotte will conduct a four-day meeting next month to consider urban design and transportation proposals for Interstate 277.

Staff from Missouri-based HNTB Corp., an international planning, engineering and architectural consulting firm, will evaluate designs in select locations in the corridor, with an emphasis on the Belk Expressway between the Kenilworth interchange and Mint Street. HNTB also will demonstrate how intensive urban development can occur next to the freeway.

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After being brought up again in another thread, I finally tracked down online documentation of the proposed "noose removal" of interstates in the Plan of Nashville. It's complete with maps, graphics, and a hell of a lot of vision. I-277 would be a cake walk compared to implementing this systematic removal of the I-40, -65, and -24 loop around downtown Nashville.

http://www.planofnashville.com/PDF_downloa...ting_Around.pdf (11.8mb PDF)

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Given how Brookshire is more directly linked to I-85 and US-74, it obviously seems harder to erase than Belk. But I'd hate Dilworth and Elizabth to yet again be favored over Belmont and Optimist Park. Plus, removing only Belk (or only Brookshire for that matter) would still leave part of the Independence interchange, which is a major barrier to having a continuous Little Sugar Creek Greenway.

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I would say like others, to generate a long connected highway for Brookshire and Independence - connect those two completely and make that one long continuous highway. Then lower Belk off of the bridges and make it simply a multi lane road or a greenway with simply access points to Brookshire/Independence.

When I looked at it on the map - the issue lies with all the crazy bridges that were created to support the looping effect that 277 has now. A curved connection between the two highways would be all that is needed in order to make this work.

In addition - I currently make major use of this highway as I live at the Briar Creek Rd exit and take 74 to 277(John Belk) to 77 to get to Nations Ford daily. I tried taking the northern route the other day (Brookshire to the 77 exit) and found this to actually be much smoother as well as faster for my commute and will more than likely start taking this route from now own. With how the Belk works - There is the issue of 3rd and 4th street exit and people trying to merge, and then there is the curve exit to get onto 77 that make this other route quite hellacious.

So I'm for it - at least the removal of Belk as being part of the Highway system that is currently in place.

*EDIT* Or better yet - with the Belk - Reconnect it with Charlottetown Rd.

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^Agreed, just remove Belk between Kenilworth and Independence.

This is the shortest piece of I-277 that could be removed functionally and yet it has a huge payoff. That is to say, this area could become a Riverwalk-like extension of Little Sugar Creek Greenway. Everything between Stonewall near the Metropolitan to 5th Street Extension (and ramp to US-74) near CPCC could fill in with new development about a waterfront district linking Uptown and Midtown.

By removing only this shorter piece, all the recent work about NASCAR and Belk would not have to be torn up yet again. The solution for connecting Uptown to South End would still being a development cap between Church and College either side of South Tryon.

Functionally, Independence (US-74) would still have direct freeway access to I-77 and NC-16 via Brookshire. CMC would still have freeway access to I-77 via Belk, along with the Panthers, Wells Fargo, Duke, and South End. And Presby/Mercy would still have freeway access via Brookshire or Belk.

With Charlottetowne there as a boulevard connection between Independence and Belk, plus Brookshire still serving as a freeway-connection to I-77, you wouldn't even need to replace this short eastern piece of Belk with a Boulevard. Thus, you'd free up even more land for development in the former path of this section of Belk. Plus, adjacent underutilized land such as the surface parking surrounding The Blake and Cameron Brown could be combined with the former freeway right-of-way.

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