Stallings residents spoke loudly this week: Don't widen Stallings Road.
And the N.C. Department of Transportation listened. “Absolutely,” said DOT division engineer Barry Moose.
Moose said the large turnout and comments at a public meeting last Monday will impact the state's plans to widen Stallings Road, add a 23-foot median and build a bridge over the railroad tracks. Stallings Road runs through the center of town, including a planned downtown area. It connects two busy commuter roads: U.S. 74 and Old Charlotte Highway.
“It's always good to hear straight from the public and business owners and get their thoughts,” Moose said. Now, Moose said the state will work with Stallings to try to come up with a plan the town likes.
Stallings Mayor Lynda Paxton estimates about 140 people attended Monday's meeting. Many were from the congregation of Stallings United Methodist Church, which would be impacted by the proposed bridge.
No one spoke in favor of the widening project.
The road project became contentious after the Stallings Town Council recently voted against supporting a study for a new road, a four-lane Chestnut Connector that would run through undeveloped land and extend Chestnut Lane to U.S. 74. The Connector would be paid for with money slated for widening Stallings and Indian Trail roads.
Moose had suggested the Chestnut Connector as an alternative to widening Indian Trail and Stallings roads, which both towns have said would destroy their downtowns. Without Stallings' support for the Connector, Moose said the N.C. DOT would return to its original plans to widen Stallings and Indian Trail roads, including building bridges over railroad tracks.
Stallings leaders said they want the state to work with them on other ideas.
“My goal is to find another solution that will not only be acceptable to the community but that they would embrace as a positive resolution to this situation,” Paxton said.
Moose said last week that he has another idea, although he has not researched whether it is feasible. He said he would look into using some of the $17 million slated for widening Stallings and Indian Trail roads to build two lanes of the proposed Chestnut Connector. The remaining money could be used to improve intersections on Stallings and Indian Trail roads.
“That will help, but it won't be the sustainable model that would last forever,” Moose said. “That fixes the problem now, and maybe in 10 to 15 years we could build the other two lanes.”
He said that even he doesn't support widening Stallings Road when there are viable alternatives, such as building the Chestnut Connector on undeveloped property.