South Charlotte

Monroe Expressway construction underway

The Monroe Expressway is being built under the supervision of N.C. Department of Transportation.
The Monroe Expressway is being built under the supervision of N.C. Department of Transportation. Melinda Johnston

Some know it as the Monroe Bypass, some as the Monroe Connector, but according to N.C. Department of Transportation its proper name is the Monroe Expressway.

“Monroe Expressway is the name of the project in an effort to unify this project with other Turnpike Authority projects, such as the Triangle Expressway in Raleigh,” said N.C. DOT representative Jordan-Ashley Walker.

When complete, the 20-mile road, running roughly parallel to N.C. 74 from west of Marshville to the Interstate 485 interchange in Matthews, will allow motorists to bypass the stop-and-go traffic along U.S. 74.

While questions remain about toll lanes on I-77, and the Garden Parkway, a tolled alternative to I-85 from Gastonia to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, is on hold, construction on the Monroe Expressway is well underway.

Monroe Expressway is the name of the project in an effort to unify this project with other Turnpike Authority projects.

Jordan-Ashley Walker, N.C. DOT spokeswoman

The road still faces legal challenges, with a second lawsuit filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center awaiting a judge’s ruling. The SELC claims the project’s environmental-impact study is questionable, but no injunction has been issued, so contractors are moving ahead, according to Walker.

Right-of-way acquisition – purchasing the land necessary to build the road – began several years ago, and is almost complete from N.C. 200 to Marshville. N.C. DOT engineer Rick Baucom said about half the acquisition is still in process, primarily from N.C. 601 to Matthews.

Clearing and grading has begun on the eastern section of the expressway near Forest Hills High School, where steel, concrete pipes, gravel and other signs of construction are evident.

Walker said that if all goes as planned, the entire Monroe Expressway will open in late 2018; there are no plans to open in sections.

Though the road is called an expressway, it will be a tolled road with a fixed price per mile, not a variable-amount calculation like express or managed lanes, where prices vary based on traffic.

Walker said the current toll estimate is about 15 cents per mile, although that price has not been finalized.

She said the road is being built under the supervision of N.C. DOT, not a public-private partnership like the proposed I-77 express lanes, where a private developer would build, operate and maintain the road.

15 Number of cents per mile estimated for toll payment on Monroe Expressway

When complete, the expressway will be operated by the North Carolina Turnpike Authority, the same entity that operates the Triangle Expressway in Raleigh, operational since 2011.

Baucom said that, as the project progresses, he hopes drivers will be patient when encountering inevitable construction delays.

“As we start with construction there will be lane closures, especially on the minor roads,” Baucom said. “We are asking folks to be on the lookout for signs and detours, and to be aware of what’s going on. Please be patient as we construct the project.”

Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: m.johnston@carolina.rr.com.

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