South Charlotte

Plans for rail route in south Charlotte

It may be a few decades away, but Charlotte Area Transit System hopes to bring a train from uptown Charlotte through Matthews to the Union County line.

Jason Lawrence, a CATS transportation planner, recently told Matthews commissioners that CATS is working on plans to set aside land for the Silver Line – a rail route to run along a stretch somewhere between Independence Boulevard and Monroe Road.

The rail route would be in addition to the planned express lanes already approved along Independence. Those lanes will take the place of the bus rapid transit lanes that were originally planned for Independence.

“In 2011 we were tasked with several things. We were to coordinate with N.C. Department of Transportation to study the highest and best use from the transit side of Independence Boulevard. This included looking at the bus routes that go into the managed lanes and what the service levels should be,” Lawrence said.

“We were also tasked with determining a rail corridor between Charlotte and the Union County line, between Monroe Road and Independence Boulevard and coming up with strategies to preserve that corridor until the rail can be built.”

Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor said he hopes that, when rail comes to Matthews, it won’t end there.

“I’m excited that rail is still on the table, but we still need to be vigilant to ensure that it becomes a reality. And it’s got to go into Union County. A big part of our traffic problem comes from people in Union County trying to get to Mecklenburg. It would be short-sighted to stop it at the Union County line,” Taylor said.

Originally earmarked for bus rapid transit, the Independence Boulevard corridor is now slated for express – or managed – lanes, which will be open to buses and cars. A variable toll, depending on time of day and surrounding traffic conditions, will be charged to drivers who use those lanes. In return, those drivers will be guaranteed a reliable travel time.

“We’ll have to operate those lanes at a speed of least 45 miles per hour, even if traffic on the general purpose lanes surrounding those lanes is at a halt,” said N.C. DOT Communications Officer Jordan-Ashley Walker.

She said the tolls collected by express lane users would be funneled back into that corridor to help finance further road construction and maintenance.

Folks who travel Independence on a regular basis are familiar with several construction projects already in progress. The interchanges at Sharon Amity and Idlewild roads have been reconfigured and access across Independence from those roads will be via newly constructed overpasses.

Next, the road will be widened to four general-purpose lanes and one express lane in each direction from Albemarle Road to Wallace Lane. The bus lanes already in use from I-277 to Albemarle Road will be converted to express lanes.

Widening and construction of express lanes from Wallace Lane to I-485 is set to start in 2022 with right of way acquisition beginning in 2020.

Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Melinda? Email her at m.johnston@carolina.rr.com.

Public meeting

Charlotte Area Transit System will hold a public meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 4 at Matthews town hall to explain the Silver Line project, and get public input on both the rail route and recommendations for bus routes that would use the express lanes. For more information, contact Jason Lawrence, 704-336-4106.

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