Drivers traveling heavily congested South Trade Street in Matthews can expect better days.
Matthews commissioners plan to spend $5.5 million to widen a portion of the road from the Fullwood Lane intersection to the culvert just past the Matthews Athletic & Recreation Association ballfields. The road is particularly crowded during morning and evening rush hours because many Union County residents use it for their daily commutes.
The project will expand the approximately three-quarter mile stretch of road into four lanes, with sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides.
The Fullwood/South Trade intersection will be improved with Fullwood widened to four lanes for about a quarter mile to the South Trade Street light. One lane will turn left, one will go straight into the Matthews United Methodist Church parking lot, and two will turn right.
Entrances to the Hampton Green and Courtney subdivisions off South Trade Street will become right in-right out, but two alternative connectors will be constructed so residents will have another access out of their neighborhoods.
The Courtney connector will be constructed as part of the town project. The Hampton Green connector to Fullwood will be constructed by ACTS Retirement-Life Communities as part of its new Plantations Estates project.
Matthews will pay Sealand Contractors Corp., a Charlotte based company, about $4.2 million for construction. The town also will pay Kimley-Horn roughly $348,000 for project administration, inspection and geo-tech services.
Funding will come from the sale of $5.5 million in transportation bonds approved by Matthews voters in 2004. Though there were no specific projects listed for the bond referendum, South Trade was on the list of possibilities.
The bonds are scheduled to be sold Oct. 7.
If interest rates and the town’s tax base remains steady, Matthews residents can expect an approximately 1.5 cent increase on their property tax rate starting next year to pay back the bonds.
Every extra penny on the town tax rate raises an additional $337,000 in tax revenue. The debt service for the first year is projected to be around $525,000.
Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor said the road construction and subsequent tax rate increase is necessary if the town is to continue to grow.
“I look at it as an investment in the future,” Taylor said. “If we want our town to grow and thrive, we have to address some of these issues.”
More than a decade in planning, the widening project has gone through numerous iterations with multiple designs, public meetings, engineering drawings, numerous compromises and board votes. The combination of elected officials has changed at least five times since talk of widening the road began.
Just last year, it appeared doubtful that the project would ever happen. But after the recent vote, a jubilant Taylor said persistence paid off.
“This project has had its ups and downs, and was on life support just a year ago when the majority of the board was in favor of abandoning it completely. I know I irritated a lot of people, but thank you for letting me bug you. We have turned around 180 degrees, and we should take pride in something that will benefit the people of Matthews,” Taylor said.
Some folks argued that since South Trade Street is a state road, N.C. Department of Transportation should be responsible for the improvements. Public Works Director Ralph Messera said that unfortunately, that’s not the way it often works.
“It is a state road, but the state doesn’t have the money for all the road work that needs to be done. In the city of Charlotte, probably a quarter or more of their road projects are done on state roads because the state can’t afford it,” said Messera.
Taylor said the town had little choice but to fund the project.
Original South Trade Street project plans called for making the road four-lanes from Fullwood Lane to the intersection of Pleasant Plains and Weddington Roads, but the $7 million plus price tag proved too expensive. Messera said there’s a good chance that remaining stretch, from the culvert to the intersection at Weddington/Pleasant Plains, will be funded as part of the state’s strategic transportation initiative. N.C. DOT just released the latest rankings, and Messera says that project scored high on the list.
Messera said all paperwork should be complete by Nov. 1, and folks should start noticing some clearing and utility relocation activity. He expects grading and paving to start soon after the first of the year.
Sealand has until March of 2016 to complete the project.