The state Department of Transportation has altered its plan for a widened “superstreet” through downtown Matthews that has rankled some residents.
DOT updated residents Monday night on the Matthews portion of a 6.5-mile project that will also go through Stallings and Indian Trail in Union County.
The Matthews segment will widen East John Street-Old Monroe Road from Trade Street to Interstate 485. It’s intended to relieve traffic congestion and help bikers and walkers move through the corridor.
Mayor Jim Taylor has worried that the plan would hurt the “look and feel of a small town that everyone seems to love,” he told Observer news partner WBTV in February. Others echoed that sentiment at a public hearing last October.
Town manager Hazen Blodgett said Tuesday that DOT has improved the plan.
“We have been working extensively with DOT to suggest design changes that we feel are a better fit for the character and feel of our community,” Blodgett said in a statement. “DOT has responded to many of the town’s concerns and redesigned some of the elements of the project. We do believe progress has been made and hope to continue to work with DOT moving forward.”
Superstreets are designed to reduce accidents in congested areas. Crossing traffic can’t go straight through or turn left at a divided-highway intersection. Crossing traffic must turn right, then take a U-turn to continue in the desired direction.
But with changes DOT has made to reduce its impact, spokeswoman Jen Thompson said, it’s no longer fair to call the Matthews segment a superstreet.
Those changes include a much narrower median, slightly narrower lanes and removal of a planting strip on the street’s south side. Three U-turn junctions will be removed and two traffic lights added.
DOT worked with Matthews officials to address concerns from the public hearing last fall, resulting in the design changes presented Monday night, Thompson said by email.
Some residents still left the meeting unhappy.
“Those that do not live on East John Street can very much find ways around the road to get where you want and need to go, but we are captive,” a resident wrote on the social media site Nextdoor. “Instead of offering a little pleasantry of keeping our front yards and maybe enjoy a relaxing park, we get asphalt and concrete up to our front door.”
A final environmental finding for the project is expected to be approved this fall. Right-of-way acquisition would begin in 2019 and construction in 2021.