Matthews drivers will need extra patience when more than a half-dozen long-planned road projects get underway in the next few years.
Reconfiguration of U.S. 74 – www.ncdot.gov/projects/U-2509 – one of the biggest and oldest projects on the books for a quarter-century, is scheduled to start in 2022, but environmental studies and preliminary designs already are underway.
Express lanes (toll lanes) will be added in the median of U.S. 74 from Conference Drive in Charlotte to the Interstate 485 interchange, and U.S. 74/Independence Boulevard will be widened. Traffic signals and at-grade crossings will be eliminated, and flyovers will be constructed at Sardis Road North, Sam Newell Road and Matthews-Mint Hill Road.
Matthews town staff say that while the improvements are desperately needed, work on new and reconfigured roads must be carefully planned and coordinated to keep local traffic moving during construction and keep the town running smoothly.
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“When you take away at-grade intersections and change stoplights to flyovers, there is a risk of splitting the town in two,” said Matthews Senior Planner Jay Camp.
In addition to the work on U.S. 74, smaller parallel “collector” roads – Northeast Parkway and Independence Pointe Parkway – will be extended in both directions so businesses currently accessed from U.S. 74 can have access driveways there.
Matthews Communications Director Jen Thompson said that while U.S. 74 is a vital route to move traffic across the county, town leaders are urging the N.C. Department of Transportation to keep local traffic in mind.
“U.S. 74 is the only east-west corridor that moves goods and services across the county,” Thompson said. “N.C. DOT needs to move people fast, but the local connections are of utmost importance.
“Having the local collector streets in place to give people another option to get around while U.S. 74 construction is in process is imperative.”
The N.C. DOT also is planning to add express lanes on I-485 from I-77 to U.S. 74 – www.ncdot.gov/projects/I-5507 – meaning the express lanes will terminate in Matthews, further affecting traffic. That project is scheduled to start in 2017.
Other road construction projects that might cause headaches for Matthews drivers over the next few years include the widening of South Trade Street, the Monroe Connector Bypass, the John Street widening, the relocation of Campus Ridge Road and the construction of the Weddington Road/I-485 interchange.
Matthews Public Works Director Ralph Messera said it’s exciting to see plans finally become reality.
“There was a lot of planning done over the years, and suddenly it all seems to be coming together in the next five-, six-year period,” Messera said. “There is no definite schedule yet, but they have committed to the money over the next few years.
“This is the first time in a long time that we have seen big money from N.C. DOT. The last big project was widening N.C. 51, and that was 25 years ago.”
Messera said that when the latest draft Transportation Improvement Plan is released by the state this summer, the timeline for construction will be firmed up and more detailed plans can be made.
Meanwhile, the public can still give input on the projects by emailing or calling N.C. DOT.
Wilson Stroud, Program Development Engineer for the U.S. 74 project, said the N.C. DOT is always interested in public input.
“We will always accept public comments, and now is a good time to send them in because we are starting the environmental studies and preliminary designs,” Stroud said.
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Melinda? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To comment on the U.S. 74 project, email Wilson Stroud at email@example.com, call 919-707-6056 or mail Wilson Stroud, N.C. DOT, Project Development and Analysis Unit, 1548 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699.
For the Interstate 485 express-lane project, call Angela Sanderson, 919-707-6042, or mail her at the same address.
▪ To find out more about the individual road projects, visit www.ncdot.gov, select “Mecklenburg County,” then choose the project you are interested in.