Hemby Bridge and Weddington recently passed resolutions asking state transportation officials to consider alternatives to the proposed Monroe Connector Bypass.The 19.7-mile toll road is designed to bypass the busiest stretch of U.S. 74 around Stallings, Indian Trail, Monroe and Wingate. State estimates earlier this spring were that the road would cost about $725 million. However, the project has been on hold pending legal issues.On June 27, Hemby Bridge’s board of aldermen unanimously approved a resolution that opposes construction of the bypass and asks transportation officials to “investigate legitimate alternative solutions to any traffic congestion issues associated with U.S. Highway 74 to achieve a more sound financial approach to the solution of such problems and to less detrimentally impact the environment of the community and state.”On July 8, the Weddington town council unanimously passed a resolution that “supports and encourages N.C. DOT to research and consider alternatives to the Monroe Bypass.”Weddington Councilman Werner Thomisser, who made the motion that was passed by the council, said, “The question is, do they need to spend $800 million to fix this Highway 74 problem or is there another way to do it?”The Weddington and Hemby Bridge votes followed a presentation by Marvin Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Burman titled “Fix It First: Myths and Contradictions with the Monroe Bypass Project.” Burman said he made the presentation as a private citizen. He added that he created the presentation with Stallings Mayor Lynda Paxton and representatives of the Southern Environmental Law Center. Plans for the bypss were stopped when the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., ruled for the Southern Environmental Law Center that the state had failed to properly conduct a federally required study on the environmental impact. Mike Charbonneau, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Transportation, provided the following response from N.C. DOT Engineer Louis Mitchell:“We certainly value public feedback and understand community frustration about the timeline for getting this project done. The Monroe bypass is important to regional mobility, and we are working diligently to move forward as soon as possible. We also are committed to full transparency and disclosure throughout each step of the process.”But Thomisser said, “There’s a better way to do this and spend less money.”He said service roads, signal optimization and super-street designs could help resolve the traffic problems on U.S. 74, and the money saved could be used to subsidize some of the other transportation issues facing Union County.“We’re not against growth,” he said. “We understand the problem on (U.S. 74), and what we’re saying is that problem can be fixed for much less money.”Kevin Pressley, mayor of Hemby Bridge, said the resolution was intended to “bring things to light and see what the best possible solution is. That’s the reason we’re trying to push other towns to look at similar resolutions.”Mineral Springs Mayor Rick Becker, who was in the audience when Weddington passed the resolution, said he plans to bring up the topic with his board.“It’s just a breathtaking amount of money, and it doesn’t seem to make transportation sense or financial sense,” he said. “ … I’m very interested in pursuing it further – and certainly getting my board involved.”Stallings Mayor Lynda Paxton said she has asked her town council to support some formal action requesting N.C. DOT to look into alternatives to the bypass.“I have not been able to get a majority,” she said.She said one of her concerns is a 20-foot wall that would be necessary to elevate the bypass in Stallings.“It would wall off the north side of the town from the south side of town,” she said. “I think the adverse effects might outweigh the possible benefits.”
Friday, Jul. 12, 2013
Questions raised about Monroe Connector Bypass
Learn more Burman’s presentation can be seen at http://static.squarespace.com/static/50993615e4b0c49016e6e913/t/515cdd33e4b0daad6e7853d7/1365040435181/FIX%20IT%20FIRST%20!.pdf)
Jane Duckwall is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jane? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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