Town officials in Stallings have said yes to a new thoroughfare – the Chestnut Connector – at least for now.
The N.C. Department of Transportation's Barry Moose still has to get approval from Indian Trail so the state can study the idea, which would take $17million slated for widening Stallings and Indian Trail roads and build the new road parallel to them.
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The Chestnut Connector would run from Old Monroe Road to U.S. 74. It would have few access points so traffic would move faster. Moose said it could relieve much of the congestion that builds up now on Indian Trail and Stallings roads.
The Indian Trail Town Council did not receive the idea well when Moose presented it several weeks ago. He needs the town's OK to move ahead with a state-financed feasibility study.
The Stallings Town Council voted 5-1 at a meeting Monday to support the study, with council member Barbara Anne Price dissenting.
Indian Trail Mayor John Quinn and Indian Trail council members Shirley Howe and Jeff Goodall attended.
“We just went over to observe what Barry had to present and see what reaction the Stallings council had,” Howe said. She added that the Indian Trail Town Council would discuss the Chestnut Connector again at an upcoming meeting.
Moose said he is shopping the Chestnut Connector idea after hearing concerns from Stallings and Indian Trail that widening their main streets could destroy their downtowns and wipe out churches, businesses and houses.
“Part of my job is to look for alternatives,” Moose told the Stallings council.
If the Chestnut Connector is built, that would leave no money to improve Stallings and Indian Trail roads, Moose said. But he told Stallings that the N.C. DOT does work with towns to help pay for enhancements such as landscaping and improved turn lanes.
Both towns recently learned that the state likely would not support their plans for widening Indian Trail and Stallings roads, which were integral parts of developing both towns' downtowns.
Moose said Monday that the N.C. DOT designs roads to move traffic. That means Indian Trail and Stallings roads would most likely be four lanes with a wide median. They would bridge the railroad tracks that now cross both roads. The bridges, a major concern for both towns, could close off access to key businesses, such as Indian Trail's proposed downtown development and the Indian Trail government complex.
Stallings Mayor Lynda Paxton said town officials had hoped the N.C. DOT would be more lenient with its design for Stallings Road.
“We have had this hope that somehow we could convince DOT we could have an at-grade intersection (at the railroad tracks) and brow-beat them into reducing the (proposed) 23-foot median,” Paxton said. “I just don't see that happening, and that's a reality we're going to have to face.”
Moose said supporting the Chestnut Connector feasibility study did not mean plans for widening Stallings Road would be permanently abandoned. If the feasibility study shows a “fatal flaw,” such as an exorbitant cost, the N.C. DOT would return to its original plans for widening the two roads.
Though the N.C. DOT will pay for the feasibility study, the towns do risk delaying their widening projects by supporting the Chestnut Connector feasibility study, Moose said.
“This is not the point of no return,” Moose said. “This is just a decision to explore this idea. I'm just asking ya'll to embrace this idea.”
Moose said the study likely would take a few months, because the N.C. DOT could work with HNTB, a consulting firm that already has worked with Indian Trail on a plan for the Chestnut Connector.