Road improvements could make commutes easier for locals trying to reach Charlotte
by Kara Lopp
MATTHEWS – Commissioners in nearby Matthews are looking at improving two roads Union County commuters use to reach Charlotte and avoid traffic on Interstate 485 and U.S. 74 – with Matthews residents footing the bill.
A study of McKee Road and South Trade Street, near the Union County border, showed commissioners that the road in most need of help soon is South Trade. That’s the news town commissioners got Monday, June 25, when Winston-Salem-based Davenport Transportation Consulting presented its findings from traffic studies detailing current conditions on South Trade and McKee. Commissioners hired the company in April for $29,100 to provide a second opinion for the proposed projects. The project, however, would come only with a tax increase for residents.
In 2004, voters passed $10.5 million worth of parks and street bonds – $5 million for parks and $5.5 million for streets. The bonds were set to expire in November, but commissioners were able to secure a three-year extension through the N.C. Local Government Commission. But in a memo to town commissioners last week, Town Manager Hazen Blodgett said construction on South Trade would need to begin within one year or flood documents for the road will need to be redone. The Four Mile Creek stream basin is being restudied and once this new study becomes effective, floods documents will be void, the memo said.
If the bonds are sold for the South Trade project, Matthews residents can expect at least a 3.5-cent increase in the town’s tax rate, officials said previously. For someone owning a $200,000 house, that would mean an increase of at least $70 a year. The project would widen the state-maintained South Trade from two to four lanes from Fullwood Lane to Weddington Road.
The other project on the table is an extension of McKee Road to improve traffic flow at the intersections of East John Street and Old Monroe Road with Campus Ridge Road and Stallings Road/Potters Road. Campus Ridge Road serves the Levine Campus of Central Piedmont Community College in Matthews. The project would build two lanes of a future four-lane roadway. The town also plans to extend this road to the west toward Pleasant Plains Road and to the east toward Independence Boulevard.
Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor said this week he wants a decision on South Trade by the fall.
“We need to make a decision,” he said. “It’s clear to me from the report that South Trade Street is the better alternative to alleviate traffic downtown. We’ve gone under the premise of continuing the project by spending money on designing the road and buying right of way. I do feel if this is the No. 1 project in town … it’s incumbent on us as a board to at least make the decision to move forward or scrap it. But I would be very disappointed if we’ve done all this and voted to scrap it. It was a voter-approved bond referendum.”
According to Davenport, the intersections studied during morning and evening rush hours included:
• Weddington and McKee roads
• McKee and Pleasant Plains roads
• Pleasant Plains and Potter roads
• Pleasant Plains and Old Monroe roads
• Old Monroe Road/John Street and Potter Road
• John Street and Interstate 485 outer loop ramp
• John Street and Interstate 485 inner loop ramp
• John and South Trade streets
• South Trade Street and Fullwood Lane
• Fullwood Lane and N.C. 51
• South Trade Street and Chesney Glen Drive
• South Trade Street/Pleasant Plains Road and Weddington Road
Using an A through F grading scale, existing South Trade Street at its intersection with Fullwood Lane ranks an E during morning rush hour and D in evening rush hour, according to study results. With road improvements the intersection would increase to a B during the morning and in the evenings. If there were no improvements by 2027, the intersection would rank as an F in the morning and E in the evening, according to the study.
South Trade at its intersection with Pleasant Plains/Weddington roads ranks an E during both morning and evening rush hours. With road improvements, the intersection would increase to a C during the morning and evenings. If there were no improvements by 2027, the intersection would rank as an F in both the morning and evening, according to the study.
Want to know more?
To view results of the traffic study, visit www.matthewsnc.com and click “Town Government,” then “Agendas and Minutes” to view the June 25 meeting documents.