Rea Road included, while other projects kept out of regional funding
Western Union County’s transportation projects may take a back seat to the rest of the region for the next 30 years.
With no funding available, the Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Organization once again on Wednesday, Jan. 19, rejected the plan created by the towns of Waxhaw and Weddington and villages of Marvin and Wesley Chapel.
The group, which is responsible for allocating state and federal transportation dollars, is in the midst of putting together a long-range plan, detailing which projects get funded and when in the next three decades. While multiple amendments were made to this latest version on Wednesday, the planning agency board left off the four municipalities’ plan.
“We can’t include that in this plan because it’s fiscally based,” planning agency Secretary Bob Cook said. Federal officials won’t approve the long-range list if any local project that doesn’t have committed funding, and the towns have no means of paying for it.
Some Union officials took exception with the planning agency’s decision, when projects, such as the road work around the abandoned Augustalee project in Cornelius, remained on the list. Officials admit that funding for those improvements has vanished.
“How is it a project designed to support a now defunct development can get added but (our plan) can’t?” Waxhaw Mayor Daune Gardner asked the planning agency board in a written letter. The mayor was in Washington, D.C. at the National Mayors Conference.
Without state funding, the question remains if many of the projects will ever take place.
To create the plan, each municipality agreed to contribute up to $30,000 in 2009, and the Mecklenburg-Union planning agency also added up to $80,000. Clarion Associates, the land-use consulting firm that developed Waxhaw and Union County’s comprehensive plans, and traffic-engineering firm Martin/Alexiou/Bryson PLLC did the work.
The idea was a good one, at least in concept, local experts said.
“There’s no question that a more regionwide effort needs to take place, in terms of transportation planning,” University of North Carolina at Charlotte Center for Transportation Director Ed Hauser said. “If they can combine planning effort and present one, united plan, it might be easier to get funding.”
But now two years later, data and other information used to build the Western Union County Local Area Regional Transportation Plan will no longer be up to date when, or if, the plans are resurrected. Some of the major projects outlined in the plan already have been altered or completed, such as widening Providence Road from the Mecklenburg County line through Weddington. Talks also are underway for the planned Rea Road extension.
Other projects, such as widening N.C. 84 through Wesley Chapel and Weddington, may have to take a back seat.
The N.C. Department of Transportation has said no money is available for the other projects. Without state funding, the towns’ other option is applying for federal grants.
The planning agency also pushed back the Idlewild Road widening project in Stallings and work on Charles Street in Monroe to 2025.
Rea Road extension to be studied
Another long delayed Union County project remained alive Wednesday, with the planning agency board allowing the Rea Road extension to remain on the funding list, at least temporarily.
The road currently dead ends at the intersection with Providence Road. Under the proposal, engineers would extend Rea from N.C. 16 to N.C. 84 as a two-lane road. Planners hopes to buy right of way an eventual four-lane facility. The project sat on the Transportation Improvement Program list for more than 20 years, never getting close to funding.
Now state road officials are negotiating with local residents, at least one of which has indicated he might possibly donate some land.
“There is a possibility of a land owner donating a significant part of the right of way for a two-lane Rea Road,” Weddington Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Barry said. He asked the board to give the town 60 days to work with the land owner and possibly reach an agreement.
Mayors sign on to Monroe Road plan
In recent months, the towns of Stallings and Indian Trail had considered moving the money currently allocated to widen Stallings and Indian Trail roads and to pay for widening Old Monroe Road from the county line to its intersection with Wesley Chapel-Stouts Road.
N.C. Department of Transportation Division 10 Engineer Barry Moose agreed to study the project. While the Indian Trail board threw its full support behind the Monroe Road work, the Stallings town council supported the study only, waiting to see cost estimates before throwing their endorsement behind an option.
The towns have more time to reach an agreement and determine funding, since the Stallings and Indian Trail roads projects are now planned for 2025.
“We consider Old Monroe Road a high priority,” Stallings Mayor Lynda Paxton said. “It’s a high priority, not just for western Union County, but for the county as a whole.”
Paxton echoed earlier statements about possibly calling for a bond referendum, to help pay for the project. Together, the two towns have $32 million in state road money, while the Monroe Road work will likely cost at least $100 million.