County, towns look at ways to revitalize Hwy 74
Over the next year, construction will start on the Monroe Bypass. While that will mean less congestion on the roads, it could also have an impact on everything from which businesses stay on U.S. 74 to where future development springs up. Hoping to shape that growth, the Union County Planning Department approached several towns to launch a joint project. During meetings held April 26, the towns of Indian Trail and Stallings joined the city of Monroe in support of the effort, agreeing to each pay up to $20,000 to help design a plan.
“This plan was spearheaded by Union County,” Indian Trail town manager Joe Fivas said. “They contacted us about the project a while ago.”
In the towns of Stallings and Indian Trail alone, studies done by the North Carolina Turnpike Authority found more than 50 businesses along U.S. 74 would be impacted by the Bypass, with some choosing to relocate.
Fivas explained the project would include intersection studies, detail possible beautification projects, determine the best land use and ways to bring in economic development along the U.S. 74 corridor. The project would cost an estimated $250,000, with the group lobbying regional transportation officials for just under half of that. The Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Organization will take up the proposal at its May meeting, to either approve or deny the request, which would call for $80,000 to be provided in each of the next two fiscal years. The remaining $90,000 would be paid by the municipalities and Union County itself, with each participant contributing up to $20,000. It’s unclear where the final $10,000 for the project would come from, a hole left when the town of Wingate decided not to take part. With Wingate’s refusal, the project will look at developing U.S. 74 from the Mecklenburg County border to the edge of Monroe’s city limits.
“I get concerned when I see a joint project, it makes me a little apprehensive,” Indian Trail Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Goodall said. “The only people I’ve heard discuss U.S. 74 is (the Indian Trail) council. I’m wondering what we could do with our own money.”
Goodall’s concerns were supported by fellow council member Robert Allen, who questioned how towns operating at different stages of the development process were supposed to work together, as the needs for each would be different.
“We’re partnering with municipalities that are not moving as fast as we are,” Allen said. “I don’t want us to wait, we’re (going backward) if we do that.”
Indian Trail council member Darlene Luther agreed, wondering what the town could do instead with the $20,000.
Of the three municipalities, Monroe will have the most real estate examined, as the plan will cover 10.1 miles of highway. Indian Trail meanwhile comes in second, with 4.25 miles of road to study and Stallings will have 1.4 miles.
“I can’t tell you it’s going to be a magic bullet,” Stallings town manager Brian Matthews cautioned his board. He explained that should the Monroe Bypass be postponed and the study goes away, the town would not be reimbursed for the up to $20,000 in expenses paid.
“I’m just skeptical of studies,” Stallings town council member Paul Frost said.
Both town councils approved the measure by 4-1 votes. Robert Allen stood in opposition in Indian Trail, while Paul Frost opposed the motion in Stallings. Stallings town council member Wyatt Dunn was absent.