Mooresville resident and retired General Electric Manager Bill Nagel has been pushing to get an extension on Doolie Road, the dead-end road that connects Lake Norman High School and N.C. 150, for years.
Nagel isn’t giving up after learning that others are making similar complaints about backed-up traffic, and he has a new plan to fix the problem.
Doolie has daily traffic delays of 30 to 45 minutes from the high school; in the case of an emergency situation, like severe weather or a shooting, traffic could be too backed up to get to safety, said Nagel.
The road could be extended through the nearby development Morrison Plantation, which has a four-lane thoroughfare, Morrison Plantation Parkway, divided by a grassy median that runs through the neighborhood to N.C. 150.
Nagel proposes building the extension but keeping it open to drivers only during morning and afternoon school traffic, school events and emergency situations.
“The new (extension’s) construction cost could be minimized by delaying installation of utilities along the road until future development has need for them,” Nagel said in a recent letter to the Observer.
The town has looked at various plans to reduce Doolie Road traffic for years, including building an extension through Morrison Plantation. But fierce opposition from residents has kept the project from being funded. A study in 2011, which was not completed, began to look at estimates for different road options.
“The study looked at three possible routes for the connector,” said Craig Culberson, Mooresville’s senior planner, in an email. “The cost estimates range from roughly $1.2 million to $2 million.
“It’s been looked at by the Board of Commissioners, but as (of) yet it’s not something that’s ranked highly enough for the money it would cost,” he said. “When Morrison Plantation was originally approved, one of the roads was designed so it could extend to the west. The biggest thing is nobody’s in a position to go out and condemn property.”
Morrison Plantation residents have expressed opposition to the extension, saying the road could reduce property values and create unsafe traffic.
“Morrison Plantation is against the cut-through 100 percent,” said Bruce Gasparre, a board member of Morrison Plantation Homeowners Association. “Our feeling is that the state needs to widen (N.C.) 150, which we understand is in the plans over the next eight years or so. That would alleviate traffic.”
Bill Tlasek, another board member, said the neighborhood has many pedestrians and bikers that use the main roads. “Our main concern is this would really be a huge safety issue,” he said.
Tlasek said Nagel’s plan to keep the extension open during restricted hours is unrealistic. “This has been an issue for quite a while,” Tlasek said. “I think once the access is there, that would become a major problem.”
Nagel said complaints about traffic that might get something done have been going to the wrong places.
“The Town of Mooresville has told me very bluntly that they haven’t had any complaints from anyone else but me,” Nagel said in an email. “Turns out, I found from DOT all of the complaints have been directed toward NC DOT since most people related the responsibility for fixing the problem as the state’s. DOT recently told me that during the school year the number of complaints is huge.”
Jordan-Ashley Baker, a North Carolina Department of Transportation communications officer, confirmed that the DOT regularly gets complaints.
“The engineers do receive complaints about traffic about the road, particularly around this time of year as school’s getting ready to start up and into the year,” she said.
Who would build the road?
In Nagel’s letter to the Observer, he said he was told by officials that building the extension would be Mooresville’s responsibility, not the county’s or the state’s. The town recommended improvements to Doolie and N.C. 150 in its Comprehensive Transportation Plan, approved in 2008.
But Baker said Doolie is actually a state-maintained road, meaning the state has some responsibility in a possible extension. She said the intersection of Doolie and N.C. 150 is included in the state’s plan to eventually widen N.C. 150, but adding an extension to Doolie would be more complicated.
“Since Doolie Road is a state-maintained road, any upkeep or improvements would be the state’s responsibility,” Baker said in an email. “However, connecting a state road to a neighborhood road would obviously require us to work with the city (or whoever maintained the neighborhood road) on some level.”
The extension would need to be built by Mooresville before the state becomes involved in maintenance, Nagel said.
Nagel said political pressure from the neighborhood is likely preventing the extension from being built, and many people affected by Doolie Road traffic live in surrounding counties and don’t have a vote in Mooresville or Iredell.
“Most of them live in Catawba and Lincoln, and that’s part of the bind,” he said. “The people who are getting impacted don’t get a vote in Mooresville. That’s the thing that’s got to be addressed.”