Towns sign off on feasibility study, plan would include bond sales
With towns at an impasse about the proposed Chestnut Connector, the state will now look at the feasibility of expanding portions of Monroe Road to four lanes.
After rejecting the idea of a four-lane Chestnut Connector earlier this month, Indian Trail’s town council instructed Town Manager Joe Fivas to ask the state highway officials about diverting that money to widen Monroe Road. N.C. Department of Transportation Division 10 engineer Barry Moose agreed to study the idea, after getting approval from the Indian Trail and Stallings councils this week.
“Most people will agree that Old Monroe Road is without a doubt the road that needs traffic alleviated,” Indian Trail councilwoman Darlene Luther said. “If we don’t begin addressing this now, it will never happen because we will continue to believe and tell ourselves that it can never happen.”
The state will consider the feasibility of funding a four-lane widening of about 2.7 miles of Monroe stretching from I-485 East on the Stallings border to Indian Trail Road.
Original state estimates showed 50,000 drivers travel Monroe Road on a daily basis, using it as an alternative to often-jammed U.S. 74 to travel from Monroe to Charlotte. But now as the department updates its data, planners realize that number is higher. The estimated traffic for Stallings and Indian Trail roads also increased, from a combined estimate of 26,000 cars a day to 36,000 per day.
“I didn’t originally consider widening Monroe Road because there’s still a question of funding,” Moose said. “Even with the money allocated to the towns, there could be a gap. I would look to the towns to fund that gap, possibly with bond sales.”
Currently, Stallings has $14 million in state road money earmarked to widen Stallings Road, and Indian Trail has $8 million in state money allocated to widen Indian Trail Road. That money is not readily available, but the state has promised to provide the money in the next five years.
That $22 million, combined with state planning funds allocated for Monroe Road, brings the total available to $30 million. That’s unlikely enough to pay to complete the widening, Moose said. State officials have estimated the entire Monroe Road widening project, from Johns Street in Matthews all the way to Wesley Chapel Stouts Road, will cost $70 million to $100 million.
A look at the 30-year funding plan for the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization shows no available dollars for Monroe Road improvements. Unless changes are made to the next version of the plan, which outlines projects through 2040, the widening project will likely depend on the towns floating a bond referendum.
“I don’t think it’s gonna get cheaper,” Indian Trail councilman Robert Allen said, suggesting if the project’s going to move forward, now is the time.
Stallings council members, meanwhile, questioned using the $14 million on one project and the impact on their town.
“Taking our $14 million, we get one road and one intersection,” Stallings councilman Wyatt Dunn said. “I’m curious to see what benefit [the widening] would bring to Stallings.”
Councilman Paul Frost echoed Dunn’s concerns, saying improving the intersection of Potters and Pleasant Plains roads is more important to the town.
In the end, both councils endorsed the feasibility study, which will take place in coming months. Once the study attached a dollar figure the project, each town will have decide whether commit its state road funds and if they’ll consider issues bonds to plug any holes.