Funds available for county projects in next five years
Western Union County’s transportation projects could see funding over the next five years. During their Wednesday, July 20 meeting, the Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Organization approved their five year Transportation Improvement Plan, which included funding for the Old Monroe Road widening, Rea Road and, among others, the Monroe Bypass.
“It’s amazing how this county has grown,” Weddington Mayor Nancy Anderson said. “The funding coming down still isn’t even, but we’re making do.”
Of particular interest to Anderson was the inclusion of the long proposed Rea Road extension in the five year funding window. The road would be a two-lane highway, stretching from the intersection of Rea and Providence roads to N.C. 84/Weddington Road near the 12 Mile Creek Road intersection.
Discussions over funding the project have gone on for almost 20 years. Current projections have the project costing between $7 to $9 million. With right of way for the road being donated by The Woods subdivision, Anderson said the project can move forward.
The only hold up now is who’s going to pay for the environmental study, needed to determine what shape that road would take. Without the environmental study, NCDOT can’t tell the Woods where they need right of way donated, Anderson said.
“If paying for (the study) means we can move forward, (the town does) have the money,” Anderson said. “Rea Road is one of the few things my council can agree on.”
Anderson said she hoped to present the idea to the Weddington town council Aug. 9, asking them to pay for the environmental study.
Other projects, such as widening N.C. 84 through Wesley Chapel and Weddington, may have to take a back seat. The planning agency also pushed back the Idlewild Road widening project in Stallings and work on Charles Street in Monroe out of the five year window. With Rea Road funded, Anderson said, the region needs to find funding to address future problems, such as the need to widen Providence Road down to Waxhaw and then build the proposed Waxhaw Parkway, to move that traffic out of the downtown area.
Funding coming in October
“The adoption of (the TIP) will go into effect at the start of the federal fiscal year, October 1,” regional planning board secretary Bob Cook said.
The TIP lists projects for all modes of transportation, a ranking updated every two years. It details which projects are federally funded and which will be built by state or local funds.
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.
Last year, adjusting to shrinking state and local revenues, the regional transportation planning agency pushed several projects and pulled money entirely from some.
At one time, state officials planned to break ground on the Weddington Road interchange on I-485 in 2011. Then, the budget shrank. Now the project could remain in funding limbo for years, as it currently ranks 128 in the region’s long range transportation plan.
“The Weddington Road (interchange) was scheduled for 2011 (but) it is now unfunded,” Cook said. “The project will remain in the (Transportation Improvement Program) because there is a legislative mandate to fund it.”
The interchange was part of Gov. Bev Perdue’s pledge in 2009 to finish I-485 in Mecklenburg, but her pledge has not yet produced funding. Current funding models don’t even have the project as a consideration before 2018.