When the final section of Interstate 485 opened recently, no one was more excited – or proud – than Troy Pollard.
“I was at the ribbon-cutting for all five sections,” Pollard said. “I was a part of the first ground-breaking, and I was at the ribbon-cutting at the completion of the project.”
The semi-retired real-estate broker was mayor of Mint Hill from 1975-1991; he also was chairman of the Charlotte area’s Metropolitan Planning Organization for 12 years during that time.
The MPO has changed names several times and is now the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization.
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The organization is a federally mandated policy-making organization comprising representatives from local government and governmental transportation authorities. The entity must approve a transportation project before federal funding can be allocated.
Under Pollard’s leadership, the then-MPO set the final boundaries for I-485’s outerbelt; however, it wasn’t an easy process, Pollard said.
“In the early 1960s, before I moved to Mint Hill, I remember picking up The Charlotte Observer one morning and two things caught my attention: the words ‘outerbelt’ and a diagram showing a road going down Wendover and bisecting Myers Park Country Club,” Pollard said. “I didn’t know what an outerbelt was, but I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen.”
Pollard said he watched as planners and transportation officials kept redrawing the route on paper, and development continued to get in the way.
“As soon as they got the new lines on the drawings, it seemed the area was filled up with houses,” Pollard said.
The transportation advisory committee he served on eventually became the MPO, and a more systematic approach to planning was created. Pollard said he and other MPO members attended dozens of meetings, public hearings and discussions, listening carefully to residents and builders as the group worked to determine the best route.
He recalls the scorching July heat 27 years ago when he participated in the groundbreaking of the first leg of the outerbelt on South Boulevard in Pineville.
He also recalls the decision to make the section from Pineville to Matthews four lanes, as the engineers at the time reported that the road would be used by a maximum of only 18,000 cars a day, so extra lanes would not be needed.
“I think it was a good intent call, but it proved to be a very erroneous call,” Pollard said. “At the time, they didn’t envision the road being used for interchange-to-interchange local traffic. They thought it would be used by people passing through the county or going from one side of the county to the other.”
Looking back, he said that while the route could have been tweaked here and there, overall he was pleased with the way the interstate was done and the way development has occurred around it.
He did express concern, however, about the future of transportation in the county.
“People in Mecklenburg County have always loved their cars and don’t want to give up any of that independence,” Pollard said. “But we need to continue looking forward and recognize that it’s time for us to consider other modes of transportation.”
He said he’s not wild about toll roads, and thinks, in most cases, that alternative funding could be found if officials look hard enough.
But for now, he said, he’s content to look back at what he sees as a $1.2 billion job well done.
Looking back at the most recent ribbon-cutting, which signaled the completion of the interstate, Pollard said, “Once the ribbon was cut, I headed back through Mint Hill and traveled the entire 67.5-mile loop around the county in just under an hour. That’s a good thing.”
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Melinda? Email her at email@example.com.