By Frank Cappella
I’ve been an area resident of Wesley Chapel for 12 years and I’m not against growth and development here in Union County. Further, if it wasn’t for development, I wouldn’t be here. But I am also absolutely appalled by the conditions of our local roads, along with the increasing surge in localized flooding.
Six months ago, many Union County area roads were flagged by the N.C. Department of Transportation for their “poor” conditions. Roughly 300 of the more than 800 miles of “poor” asphalt are in Union County, according to the state’s numbers. NBC Charlotte filed a report covering this and included the 100 worst roads in our region. Nearly 50 of them are here in Union County.
Many roads in my area are in serious disrepair and are downright treacherous, such as Newtown Road, Route 84, Wesley Chapel Stouts Road, Shannon Road, Waxhaw-Indian Trail Road, Antioch Church Road, Twelve Mile Creek Road, Weddington-Matthews Road, Chestnut Lane, Providence Road, Route 75.
I can go on forever and I’ve only listed roads within my vicinity.
These roads have no shoulders, poor grading, systemic and ever-worsening flooding issues, draining issues, pothole issues, vehicle hydroplaning issues, poor bridges, blind corners, terrible lines of sight, no highway markers and many other safety hazards. These are the facts. Meanwhile, we are currently placing children on school buses and asking bus drivers to navigate some of the worst roads in the entire region.
I encourage all of our state, county, and local elected officials to ride on some of these roads listed above, perhaps during a rainy evening or the morning of a freeze. They won’t. Want to know why? Because they already know how badly this situation has become. All of our representatives also know this fact; these local roads were never intended to handle this much development.
Yet, as the road infrastructure continues to implode, the building permits from our towns, villages and the county’s unincorporated areas have not slowed down. Irresponsible development or “rubber-stamp” decisions can put additional stress on the road system, along with unintended consequences regarding the flooding issue. Responsible growth should add to the community, while carefully considering road quality, traffic, school capacity, environmental impact, storm water, sewer, water, parking, community identity and goals.
Besides the development issue, why aren’t Union County roads improving? The short answer might be because Union County is part of the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization. CRTPO is made up of area representatives from Mecklenburg, the City of Charlotte, Iredell and Union County. It is basically a voting block that divvies up road funding projects between the counties. The voting structure is based on population: City of Charlotte has 31 votes; Cornelius, Huntersville, Indian Trail, Iredell County, Matthews, Mecklenburg County, Mint Hill, Monroe, Mooresville, Statesville and Union County have two votes each; each of the other voting members has one vote.
This is a numbers game, and it could mean local Union County roads would be relegated to scraps. Decisions aren’t based on needs but on who has the most votes. It’s why some believe local Union County roads will continue to fail.
I believe this road infrastructure emergency represents by far, the biggest risk to the future of Union County and its residents. I’m not against development. But it is now time for responsible development, which includes updating our roads to handle the growth approved by our elected officials. This situation demands urgency.