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Protect towns; keep connector for driving

We don't know yet precisely where the Chestnut Connector would go.

Leaders from Stallings and Indian Trail have thrown their support behind the N.C. Department of Transportation's plan to study the connector's feasibility.

We do know it would run northeast-to-southwest somewhere between those towns. It also would connect U.S. 74 and Old Monroe Road.

The towns' officials have emphatically said they want to preserve their downtowns. So they need to be clear in their thinking about what the Chestnut Connector would do.

Move traffic. Period.

The towns should follow through on their commitments to be charming with pedestrian-friendly main streets. Those streets would be Stallings Road and Indian Trail Road (North and South).

The connector would be wider than Old Monroe Road and the towns' main streets, all of which are two lanes. Hence, a connector, in theory, would ease the traffic overload in the towns and on Old Monroe.

However, the connector also could raise some perplexing issues.

Businesses follow traffic.

Want proof?

Roosevelt Boulevard (U.S. 74) in Monroe was widened to six lanes in 1989. There were businesses there, but downtown Monroe was the hub. Main Street Monroe was alive, and most folks thought it would remain that way.

In the almost 20 years since that expansion, the majority of new businesses that came to Monroe chose a site along U.S. 74, the busy thoroughfare. Downtown has languished and failed to come up with a strategy to attract significant amounts of businesses and people. That struggle continues.

The Chestnut connector would be a shortcut that would offer drivers compelling reasons not to go to downtown Stallings or Indian Trail. You could avoid the slow movement on Old Monroe Road between Indian Trail Road South and Stallings Road. You could move quickly to another main road, though that road would be U.S. 74, which has its own flow problems. And once you're on U.S. 74 in that area, you're near shopping and restaurants.

So one could reasonably assume the connector would be a busy road and attractive to businesses.

That's where Indian Trail's and Stallings' commitment to downtown and planning would become crucial.

Limit access from the Chestnut Connector. Let drivers know, once you're on it, you're headed to the other end.

The connector would cross Gribble Road and Matthews-Indian Trail Road. Would you put interchanges there? How would you zone the land? Would you allow businesses? What kind of businesses?

The more businesses you allow, the fewer drivers would be attracted to the downtowns.

Now's the time to consider these questions, as you're assessing the connector's feasibility. If you build it without planning, the businesses will come.