Indian Trail looks at ways to solve traffic issues
As it stands, construction on the four lane widening of Old Monroe Road won’t start until 2018. The Indian Trail town council heard that timeframe from staff members Tuesday, Feb. 14, as they discussed what the town could or would be willing to do in order to start the project.
Currently, the widening project is split into segments, with only some of those funded. The first segment runs from downtown Matthews to Interstate 485 and isn’t funded in the current 30 year plan for the state’s transportation budget. The second segment, running the 2.9 miles from I-485 to Indian Trail Road, is funded, but in a future budget. The state has money set aside to use on the project beginning in 2018. The third leg of the project, running 2.4 miles from Indian Trail Road to Wesley Chapel Stouts Road, also is unfunded in the state’s 30 year transportation budget.
Indian Trail residents voted in November to approve a $10 million bond, designated for that third segment, to speed up construction. After that vote, council members say they’ve been getting calls, wanting to know when the construction will start. The answer right now is no time soon.
“I would love to have a Shelby Mustang (but) if I showed up to the dealer with a bank note for $10,000, they wouldn’t let me leave with one because it’s a $55,000 car,” council member David Waddell said. “Financially, it’s the same thing. The bond passed for $10 million but its a drop in the bucket for what it will take to actually build this thing.”
The cost for what it will take to actually widen Monroe Road varies, depending on who gives the projection. Right now, Segment Two, from I-485 to Indian Trail Road, is expected to cost $38 million. The state, with the approval from Indian Trail and Stallings, took $22.5 million from two other planned projects in the towns and will fill the gap with savings from other projects that came in under budget. Town manager Joe Fivas questions the state’s projections for the third segment, estimated at more than $20 million, due to the fact most of the right of way is already available.
“(The state) has access to most of the right of way from Brandon Oaks to Wesley Chapel Stouts (Road),” Fivas said. “That’s usually a significant portion of your cost.”
With 80 percent of the right of way already accessible, that should cut down the cost of the project, Fivas said.
Council member Darlene Luther had requested the item be put on the agenda, to determine what the town could do to move things forward. Fivas and town engineer Scott Kaufhold gave a breakdown of the four options available.
Those options include waiting until 2018 for the state to start construction, make interim improvements by working on the third segment in phases, partner with the state to build the third segment or partner with the state to design the third segment, while waiting until 2018 to start construction. Another consideration was for the towns involved to take out a loan and finance the project, then get paid back by the state in 2018 when the funds become available.
State traffic projects show that by 2035, traffic will have more than doubled. The first segment in Matthews currently sees around 18,000 cars a day. By 2035, that’s projected to climb to 39,200. The second segment, from I-485 to Indian Trail Road, collects 21,400 vehicles now. That’s projcted to grow to 43,800 by 2035. The third segment currently sees 20,400 drivers travel on it each day. That’s expected to grow to 35,400 by 2035.
“In 2035, Old Monroe will see traffic (that) U.S. 74 sees today,” Kaufhold told council members, adding that the projections took into account the opening of the Monroe Bypass.
Deciding on an option
Luther said since the election, she had been getting emails and phone calls from residents, asking when the town would start construction.
“People want to know, they think the bonds passed, so we can just start construction,” Luther said. “They want it done and they can’t fathom sitting in traffic another four years.”
Fivas suggested that the town needs to either get better defined numbers from the state or do their own study, to determine how much the project, or at least the third segment, would cost.
“At the end of the day, we need real numbers,” Fivas said.
Council members were split on how to move forward, unable to agree on if they should spend the bond money or wait on more information.
“There are people in town who have reservations about going $10 million into debt for a state road in a state with the highest gas tax in the southeastern United States,” Waddell said.
Luther pointed out that residents had passed the bonds in the November vote.
“Narrowly,” Waddell replied.
Mayor Pro Tem David Cohn pointed out that the town currently didn’t even seem to have accurate numbers for how much the project would cost, questioning how they could vote to spend bond money without a better estimate.
“We’ve got a $10 million bond and nobody knows how to spend the money,” Cohn said. “You don’t want to take $10 million and not spend it correctly. I’m all for widening (Monroe Road) but I want to save taxpayers’ money.”
He said the town should have explained things better before putting the bond out for a vote, so residents wouldn’t expect instant construction.
The council agreed to continue discussing options at future meetings, beginning at their next one scheduled for Feb. 28. Among the items for consideration will be a feasibility study and an analysis of the area’s traffic congestion and traffic safety.