Project added to funding list, towns continue discussions with state
While funding questions still remain, the proposed McKee Road extension took another step forward this week, with towns signing on and the local transportation authority adding the project to its long-range plan.
The project was one of more than 10 amendments to the Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Organization’s long-range funding plan Wednesday, Jan. 19. In meetings earlier in the week, the towns of Matthews and Stallings agreed to continue talks over funding, with Stallings officials asking about the possibility that the N.C. Department of Transportation could lift a required financial match from the towns for the project. At the towns’ request, the N.C. Turnpike Authority is researching the cost of this project, which could be completed at the same time as the Monroe Bypass.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation is considering paying for a portion of the project, however they would require the towns to match their funding level, committing them to paying for at least half. Over the last month, discussions have been ongoing between town officials, local state engineers and the department’s headquarters in Raleigh, about potentially lifting that match requirement. Instead, any funds saved from the construction of the nearby Monroe Bypass would be diverted to fill the gap.
“I’m pretty optimistic (about getting the match lifted),” Moose said at the regional planning agency meeting, where the board voted to go ahead and add the project to an already loaded list totaling almost 300.
“In the end, if we refuse to do anything, the project goes away,” Stallings Town Manager Brian Matthews cautioned his board. “If DOT says no and we refuse to do a match, then the project doesn’t get built.”
The extension would connect McKee Road in Matthews to Stevens Mill Road, which intersects with Mount Harmony Church Road. The problem is that a portion of the proposed extension would go through property owned by the McGee Corporation, who as of Jan. 20 had not committed to going along with the project. Some Stallings town council members also question what actual impact such a project would have on their town and if it’s worth spending the money.
“The two things that concern me are the McGee Corporation and the (eventual) traffic study,” Stallings council member Wyatt Dunn said, questioning what the added traffic from such an extension would do to other roads in the area. “I’m just trying to understand what the benefit is for Stallings residents.”
The main issue facing the project now is how both sides will pay for it. Stallings is already considering a possible bond referendum to help fund another project, a jointly funded widening of Old Monroe Road with Indian Trail.
“I think we’re gonna have to step up if we want to see this done in our town,” Stallings Mayor Lynda Paxton said. “I’d like for DOT to do it, but they’re not.”
That’s mainly because NCDOT officials are struggling with how to fund the majority of the region’s projects. Over the next 30 years, NCDOT and MUMPO officials estimate only 70 percent of the just over 300 projects on the books will be funded.
From 2009 to 2035, planners project the region will get $1.42 billion from the state’s equity formula and $1.706 billion from the loop formula. The state’s equity formula breaks counties such as Mecklenburg into seven divisions. Half of the money distributed to those divisions is based on population. The remaining half is distributed two ways: first DOT calculates the miles of unfinished interstate road in each division, then adds that to a set amount of money given equally to each division. To put that in perspective, $1.7 billion of those combined dollars would be spent on 12 projects, including $152 million in Mecklenburg for Independence Boulevard improvements.