August 18, 2014

Lake Norman community pleads for sidewalks

Residents show video of near misses between school buses and construction trucks

Residents along Torrence Chapel Road at Lake Norman pleaded with the Cornelius Board of Commissioners on Monday night to extend sidewalks along a narrow stretch of their road that has seen near-collisions between construction trucks and school buses.

“Everyone wants these sidewalks except for a few select individuals,” Torrence Chapel resident Diane Gilroy said. “Say ‘yes’ to democracy. Say ‘no’ to elitism.”

Nearly 20 residents spoke in favor of the sidewalks Monday night, while children and adults in the packed audience held signs that read, “Stop waiting. Protect the children,” and “TC sidewalk Now!”

Residents said they feared the new board was about to reject the sidewalks that a previous board had approved for the 0.4-mile stretch in question.

Torrence Chapel is a busy commercial road at West Catawba Avenue, where the state is converting Interstate 77 Exit 28 into a diverging diamond interchange. About a mile farther down the road, it shrinks to a narrow residential street.

One resident showed a video Monday night in which a school bus crosses the center line and drives straight down the middle of the road. Another bus drives onto the grass to avoid an oncoming vehicle.

Before the public spoke, Town Manager Anthony Roberts announced that design of the sidewalks was complete and would be submitted to the state Department of Transportation on Tuesday. He said the project could be put out for bids in the next week or so.

In early 2013, a previous Cornelius Board of Commissioners agreed to add sidewalks along the stretch in question. But residents along the left side of Torrence Chapel heading toward the lake signed a protest petition against the sidewalks taking parts of their lawns.

That curtailed the project until Gilroy and fellow resident Rhonda Freese convinced all but three residents to sign their petition favoring sidewalks. The women collected 106 signatures.

In September 2013, then-Mayor Lynette Rinker asked for a consensus of the board to move forward with adding sidewalk along the west side of Torrence Chapel — heading toward Lake Norman — from John Gamble Road to Senlac Lane. The board was unanimous in favor of adding the sidewalks along the .4-mile stretch, but now a new board is taking up the issue.

Mayor Chuck Travis, however, said the board is still reviewing the plans with the DOT and will discuss the project in more detail at its Sept. 15 meeting.

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