By Yustin Riopko
INDIAN TRAIL – The state is determined to turn Old Monroe Road into a superstreet.
Scott Cole, an engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation, delivered an update to the Indian Trail Town Council on July 24 about the state’s plans to widen the highway. The superstreet design faces strong opposition from citizens.
The NCOT conducted a traffic forecast that accounted for population growth, planned land use and road projects like those on I-485 and U.S.74. That study saw traffic volumes on the corridor dropping by 3 percent from the 2035 forecast. NCDOT’s analysis also determined that a superstreet and a traditional four-lane street with standard intersections would “operate comparably,” according to Cole.
Cole insisted the superstreet model is safer, reducing the number of crashes by 46 percent and limiting the amount of dangerous T-type crashes. He said superstreets also better accommodate pedestrians and cyclists.
“We understand that we have to balance not only the needs of Indian Trail, but the needs of the folks on either side,” Cole said. “There are 20,000-plus cars a day on this route, so we recognize what we’re hearing from some of the constituents of the town. But we believe that because of the safe aspects of the route, and the ability to get through the route efficiently, that we’re moving with the right thing for all the people involved.”
Town council voted July 10 to extend a $10 million bond that may go to NCDOT for the superstreet. The bond money was originally meant to help speed up the widening of Old Monroe Road, before the superstreet entered the equation. Council members were hoping to use the bond money as leverage to change the state’s mind about the superstreet. Now that it’s been seven years and no progress has been made, council members aren’t sure what to do with the money. Some think issuing the bond could still help.
“There’s some things we can control,” Councilman Jerry Morse said. “Maybe if we do decide to fund it, or contribute to it, then maybe we can encourage them to mitigate some of the issues that are being brought up by some of the residents.”
Others think the town should keep the money for now.
“Your best bet is to do another bond referendum to allow the voters to speak as we did in 2011,” resident Michael Faulkenberry told the council. “Because things have changed in the last several years. There was no superstreet mentioned in 2011 or 2013 when I attended the first community meeting with DOT. Your best bet is to let the voters decide if they want to spend that $10 million or not in 2019 before the construction starts for this project. Take the responsibility out of the council. As everyone agrees, the residents have the voice.”
Superstreet intersections prohibit drivers on a minor road from driving straight across or making a standard left turn. Instead, they have to perform a U-turn into a “bulb,” and yield before merging back into traffic. Cole called these turns “net lefts” and “net throughs.” He said they reduced the amount of conflict points at an intersection from 32 to 14.
NCDOT has modified the width of the landscaped medians to reduce bulb size into residents’ yards. They are also delivering on the following requests by Indian Trail: a 35 mile per hour posted speed, protected left-turn lane and gutter, 6-foot sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian refuge islands, ADA ramps with truncated domes and multi-use trail.