South Charlotte

Ballantyne Breakfast Club meeting focuses on road projects

State and local officials shared updates on area road projects during the Dec. 6 Ballantyne Breakfast Club meeting. But residents in attendance still had plenty of requests for how they want south Charlotte roads improved.

Officials with the Bissell Cos., the Charlotte and state Departments of Transportation and city council sat on a panel in the standing-room-only meeting to discuss such road projects as the I-485 widening, the Rea Road widening and the North Community House Road bridge.

While most of the updates were generally met with satisfaction from the audience, residents also requested that they: add more road signs to Brixham Hill Avenue in Ballantyne; update Ardrey Kell Road to meet the added demand from proposed developments in the area; and speed up the addition of a roundabout on Community House Road.

Ned Curran, CEO of the Bissell Cos., described several road projects that were privately funded by his company. That included the North Community House Road project, where the company added a second lane in both directions, and reconfigured Brixham Hill Avenue (formerly known as John J. Delaney), which, Curran said, “has been extraordinarily well received.”

He also described how the company is helping with creation of the North Community House Road bridge over I-485. He said he expects that bridge to be open by the end of January.

“We look forward to growing the tax base in hopes of getting our money back over the next 15 years,” Curran said.

Warren Cooksey, N.C. DOT director of outreach and community affairs for Division 10, updated residents on the I-485 widening project.

The $83.3 million project will expand a 9-mile stretch of the highway in south Charlotte. Transportation officials have said, although originally expected to be completed by December, the I-485 widening project likely will not be complete until January, at the earliest.

Division 10 includes Mecklenburg, Union, Cabarrus, Anson and Stanly counties, Cooksey said.

He explained to residents that the next step on I-485’s southern rim will be adding toll lanes in each direction between I-77 and U.S. 74. Construction for that is expected to begin in fiscal year 2017, he said.

He said toll lanes are an effective way to manage congestion because it “puts a price on access and asks, ‘What is important to the driver? Getting from Point A to Point B or getting from Point A to Point B in a speedy fashion?’ ”

Cooksey also talked about the state’s new funding formula, known as the Strategic Transportation Investments law. Before the state passed the new law last year, transportation funding was put in various buckets for different forms of travel.

Now, legislators will decide funding based on data-driven scoring and local input. Projects will be divided into a three-tier system: Statewide, Regional and Divisional, and will compete for funding.

Charlotte City Councilman Ed Driggs and Curran suggested that Charlotte should adopt a similar data-driven system for prioritizing road projects. But the city DOT’s Planning and Design Division Manager Norm Steinman said that would not be effective in the city because it doesn’t take into account subjective factors like preserving a neighborhood atmosphere.

“We’re trying to bring that kind of information and those perspectives into the process,” Steinman said. “I don’t suspect that we will ever have a data-driven process totally used by the city of Charlotte. I wouldn’t even espouse that we do something like that.”

Despite the many road projects in the area, residents still have a lengthy wish list for what else they’d like to have accomplished on south Charlotte roads.

One resident requested that Ardrey Kell Road be widened in light of the proposed mixed use development at the failed Charlotte Golf Links property. Another said she would like to see more signs at the newly reconfigured Brixham Hill Avenue so drivers know what they’re supposed to do.

Officials agreed that keeping up with the need for more road improvement projects will be critical in coming years as the state’s population is expected to grow. And in south Charlotte specifically, where more growth is expected along roads originally designed as farm roads, that need is even greater, they said.

Still, N.C. Rep. Bill Brawley, R-Mecklenburg, said residents should be realistic about the role they’re playing in traffic problems in the area.

“How many of you have been sitting in traffic and think, ‘I hate it’?” he said. “Here’s the thing: You’re not sitting in traffic. You are traffic.”