Projected growth around the Lake Norman region – and how to best plan for roads and other transportation infrastructure – will bring elected officials, economic leaders, property owners and interested citizens from more than four counties together during the Lake Norman Transportation Commission’s second annual summit on Sept. 30.
Members of the public are also invited to the summit, which will consider funding sources for, and improvements to, east-west access around the larger Lake Norman region, particularly in the N.C. 73 and N.C. 150, officials said.
More than 140 attendees are expected from several chambers of commerce, economic development corporations and town staff from Catawba, Lincoln, Mooresville and South Iredell, as well as Mecklenburg County’s Lake Norman towns. People from Rowan and Cabarrus counties also have registered, organizers say.
N.C. Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata will be the keynote speaker, and a panel discussion about funding transportation projects will feature N.C. House District 103 Rep. Bill Brawley.
Huntersville Transportation Director Bill Coxe will give a brief update during a group discussion about the N.C. 73 corridor, and N.C. Department of Transportation’s David Keilson will do the same for the N.C. 150 corridor.
Bill Thunburg, executive director of the Transportation Commission, said the topics covered this year come directly from interest surveys taken at the end of last year’s summit, which attracted nearly 90 people. East-west access around the region was a prevalent topic.
“Congestion and mobility concerns are the No. 1 issue citizens have,” Thunburg said. “They don’t know if they’re in Lincoln County or Mecklenburg or Iredell, they just want to be moving.”
Mac Herring, a Mooresville commissioner who also serves on the Transportation Commission, said that including the west shore of Lake Norman also was a suggestion from last year’s summit.
“These corridors provide for the economic future and sustainability, and the public that has a vested interest and wants to take a serious look should come out and be part of the conversation.”
Danny Hearn, president and CEO of the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce, said it only takes one trip from Hickory to Charlotte to understand how vital roadways are to the area.
“It depends on which way you go. When I go (Interstate) 40 to 77, most of the time during the week, before or after work, it’s just a nightmare” Hearn said.
“If you go from Hickory to Charlotte via (N.C.) 16, then it is a totally different world. You’re there in half the time.”
Hearn said that the southeast corner of Catawba County will be the fastest-growing portion of their jurisdiction and can only benefit from regional transportation discussions.
“Greater access to the Hickory metro going both ways is very, very important to us,” he said.
Ken Kindley, president of the Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, said that N.C. 150 and 73 will likely be the next big areas for development in Lincoln County, providing funding is found improve the roadways.
“Basically, until you get over to North Mecklenburg, (both) are pretty much two-lane roads ... There’s interest among surrounding counties to work on those corridors,” Kindley said, noting there have been elaborate plans and studies done over the past decade that have never found funding.
“Everything is about transportation and getting the product to and from ... If you don’t participate, you’ll be left out.”
While the summit may not provide any quick fixes, Thunburg said, he’s optimistic that the “unique collaboration” will provide a long-term benefit to the region.
“I think people recognize there’s a need for us to focus on these things we can collaborate on. The idea is to be able to serve citizens of the region and provide the congestion relief and improved mobility they’ve expressed the desire to have.
“We can’t wave a magic wand to get that,” Thunburg said.
“But if we commit to (planning) and being disciplined in how we approach transportation infrastructure ... We’ll make it better instead of letting it get worse.”