Thursday, April 02, 2009

No, DON'T make 485 top priority


I'm going out on an opinion limb here, but I've been trying to figure out why just about every elected official around here seems to take it on faith that finishing that final leg of the outerbelt should be at the top of all local transportation spending lists. It shouldn't. There are better and more useful ways to spend that estimated $220 million.

Putting a lot more of it into Charlotte's transit system and better -- faster and more frequent -- rail service between North Carolinas cities would be a good place to start. Yes, it's expensive. But it would solve a lot more congestion than any urban loop road ever would. Yes, the money's in different legal "buckets." So change the law, already.

Meanwhile, we should get smarter in using state and federal transportation money restricted for streets and roads. There are plenty of legitimate projects in Mecklenburg County that are sorely needed, as development has overtaken old farm-to-market roads. But instead of building the typical NCDOT-style four-lane country highways, build four-lane boulevards. This is, after all, a city.

And this is the most important part of this piece: Build plenty of streets that connect. The more connections, the less the load on any one road. And can we stop calling them "roads"? They're streets. Streets are what you have in cities. Roads are what you have in the country.
Did I mention that this is, after all, a city?

On those interconnected streets, build (or require others to build) sidewalks and bike lanes. If key thoroughfares need connecting, buy the houses that stand in the way, and connect where needed.

Note what the state of Virginia has done. The state recently decided it will no longer maintain (or even plow) state-owned streets in new subdivisions that don't meet state requirements for connectivity and sidewalks. Here's a link to a WashPost story. The reasoning is sound: State taxpayers are funding road widenings that wouldn't be necessary if subdivisions and other developments were required to connect with each other. And disconnected neighborhoods pose a serious problem for emergency services.

That's true in North Carolina as well. Your tax dollars will pay for a Shelby bypass to bypass the current Shelby bypass, because Shelby and Cleveland County welcomed all that sprawling development along the U.S. 74 Bypass (while sort of pretending it also was supporting its downtown. Come on.)

Ditto Monroe, although are planned to help pay some of the planned Monroe bypass. Supposedly. (And anyway, it's looking as if the "Finish The Outerbelt" forces will use up that Monroe bypass money for a few years.) Ditto widening Providence Road, a state highway needlessly carrying thousands more vehicles than it would if developers had been required to connect their developments with a street network. But the developers didn't want to do that, because customers like to live on cul-de-sacs, so local rule-makers didn't make them.

Sure, that little gap atop 485 looks weird. But in terms of solving traffic congestion, it's a nonstarter. Loop roads have no history of solving congestion in any city. They generally clog shortly after they open, because local elected officials happily OK just about any development proposed anywhere along the route -- thus packing the outerbelt with what is, essentially, local traffic. That's one important reason I-485's southern leg is so congested. Mecklenburg County commissioners, plus municipal officials in Charlotte, Pineville and Matthews, pretty much let any developer who wanted to build anything do so.

What we need, instead of widening 485, is about 10 more connector streets besides 485, N.C. 51 and the handful of others.

Indeed, old-timers remember when the outerbelt was first proposed back in the 1960s, its rationale was more openly stated in those innocent times. It was "to open land for development." Transportation rationalizations came much later, after developers had already snapped up the land along the route.

Hardly any local transportation professionals believed the outerbelt was necessary, longtime local transportation planner Bill Coxe told me more than a decade ago. But knowing the powers pushing it, they didn't openly oppose it. "That bulldozer was way too big for anybody to get down in front of,'' Coxe told me.

I remember in 1998, hearing Harry West, the longtime director of the Atlanta Regional Commission, who had seen how Atlanta's Perimeter Highway pushed that city's sprawl. Speaking about I-485, he told a Charlotte conference sponsored by, among other groups, the Charlotte Chamber: "If I thought you would listen to me, I'd tell you not to build it.''

Obviously, we didn't listen to him. And we still aren't.

95 comments:

Anonymous said...

I guess she has driven down WT Harris Blvd lately.

G STREUBER said...
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Anonymous said...

agreed

Anonymous said...

Completing 485 would cut 20 minutes off my comute to Harrisburg - yet I would happily give it up forever in exchange for real mass transit. 485 is not a problem in itself; the lack of vision and a willingness to get the job done by NC DOT and politicians has brought us to this point.
We apparently lack the people and the necessary tools to finalize the 485 route and buy the land immediately - NC DOT staff told me off the record that was one of the major reasons 485 has taken so long, and the other was the bending to politicians who wanted to know the route in advance so they could invest in land along the interchanges.
We've lived in areas with no mass transit, and with mass transit that works - look at Chicago, NY, DC, even Atlanta had enough foresight to put MARTA at the airport - but not Charlotte.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

The writer of this article obviously doesn't live on or have a need to use the unfinished portion of 485.

FINISH what you're started NCDOT and BEV PERDUE!

Anonymous said...

if you're gonna stress how much of a "city" charlotte is, then you need to step up to the plate and provide the type of amenities that other "cities" have...starting with a legitimate outerbelt highway. i just moved here from indianapolis, where we have a REAL loop (I-465), and it definitely helps to limit inner-city traffic. i used to live on the far northside of indy and work on the far southside. at one point, i didn't go "into the city" for a almost a month! get er done folks!!!

Tim said...

This article makes a lot of sense. The light rail has been a tremendous success and it needs to be continued. Contrary to racist "I'm writing everything in all-caps" guy, I think most intelligent folks in Charlotte do want more mass transit...no matter where we grew up.

Anonymous said...

Let me interpret the writer's message. "Projects benefiting the suburban swine should be halted to make room for more toys and goodies for down-town and south Charlotte. REAL cities find a way to pamper the rich. Charlotte should be no different. People that drive cars are LAZY and must be forced to move within a block of our miniature-size train system." I'll say that sums it up.

barkomomma said...

It's $220 million. How much did that little 9-mile toy train end up costing.

And with the time and expense to build a mile of highway/street/road (whatever you want to call it), that little bit of coin wouldn't make a dent anywhere.

Jay said...

Does someone with a column live around 51 or Pineville? Hmmm, I wonder. UCity and Mountain Island area could use the connection. Hell will make my trip to the lake quicker. Putting in mass transit is a great idea. But let's see what is the time frame, cost, route, etc for all of these. Could we have picked another route to start with? Come on. I love the political views of the Observer staff. Right up there with the Sports section's articles.

Anonymous said...

G STREUBER and Anon immediately below -- you are certainly in the minority when it comes to mass transit. If you're (note the correct usage and spelling) going to send everyone back to New York (could be Atlanta and their mass transit!), then I would tell you to come out from under your (again, correct usage and spelling) hillbilly rock. This is 2009, 21st century. We are moving forward.

As for all the local politicians prioritizing 485 -- not so. Measures were just taken to prioritize improving and building local roads/streets, which would create connectivity.

Anonymous said...

Our "successful train system" isn't anywhere near where I live, work or play. When I lived in DC, I rode the Metro every day. It was great. Our "christmas train set" system isn't anywhere near a sufficient commuter system. It took billions of federal money to build the Metro system. Unless we get that, we're not having a real rail system. When there's a stop within 5 miles of my home, I'll change my mind. Until then, I say finish the beltway.

DMorrisPE said...

Mary - leggo of that tree and put your brain in gear! The "missing link" is the very portion that should have been amongst the FIRST segments constructed, because the eastern legs of I-485 were intended to divert traffic from the heavily-travelled I-77 south and Independence Blvd. eastbound corridor. As it is, there is a lot of unnecessary traffic on I-85 between I-77 & I-485 (exit 48) that is trying to get to the eastern NC area.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing bad about trains - they are very good about moving freight very cheaply, but they're not so good when it comes to moving people. Folks still need to get from the train stops to where they REALLY want to go, and that takes a bus, car, taxi, helicopter, jetpack, or you-name-it, but you can't do it by rail. And if you somehow get folks to use the train, the extra congestion around the stations requires building more roads/lanes/intersections to handle the load. All that accomplishes is relocating the traffic pressure points.

Anonymous said...

They want more mass transit to cater to the thugs. The thugs need mass transit so they can expand their territory. They are in need of new durg customers and places to steal from. North Lake mall was a nice place, then the buses came, look at all the thugs there now. Mass transit doesn't get cars off the streets, it just puts thugs in more areas.

Anonymous said...

Last leg of 485 needs to be completed. North of Charlotte needs it as much as South part of Charlotte. That would link I85 and I77 which would be a great help to a lot of people.

Anonymous said...

I'm very tired of the lack of planning and not holding developers to pay for road and street upgraded. Look at 77 from the lake. Two lanes? Route 21 and Route 115 a twl lane rural highway? Come on. These rural roads are congested and dangerous and have no plans to improve within the next 15 years. Just a matter of time till another strip mall or subdivision is constructed adding to the congestion. The developers if asked, might add a turn lane to the closed loop roads they create. The cities and counties can't say no for some reason to all the building. Gee thanks Charlotte, Mecklenburg and the state of North Carolina.

We are on the fast track to be Atlanta - North Annex.

Anonymous said...

Another example of someone with no sense being in a position of influence. MEDIA, MEDIA, MEDIA.

Anonymous said...

Obviously, she doesn't live in North Charlotte. I commute every day from Mooresville to the University area. I-485 MUST be completed! The state must finish what it started over 20 years ago.

NC_Native said...

So many of you that post here are brainwashed into just the type of mentality Mary talks about - that more and wider roads solves traffic problems. They don't...they CREATE more traffic and sprawl. That, in turn, creates a need for more and wider roads, and the cycle perpetuates itself. Study after study after study shows this to be the case.

Personally, I have no issue with 485 being completed because that in itself isn't the problem. The problem is that local govt. ALWAYS gives in to pressure from developers and allows out-of-control development at each of those interchanges, creating more traffic problems and more sprawl. If the outerbelt were used for its initial purpose, which was to steer traffic away from the city, that would be fine. But it has become little more than a tool for developers.

Kyle Merville said...

People wonder why we are in the mess we are in now - unsustainable growth got us here. People paying FAR too much for their cars and houses and the gas to shuttle them between housing and their jobs. Gas is one thing you can NEVER get a return on your investment from. A house closer to the center of the city can give you a return. People who were driving those large cars were simply THROWING money away.

Add that to the fact that VMT in this country is way up over the last decade (down now for a year) and you see the problem. People are driving too far on the roads and paying WAY too little of a tax to pay for the real cost.

THAT'S why our nation's roads are broken. To all the people that say 'go pay for your mass transit' - the same can be said to you - we do not want to pay for your silly roads to nowhere.

Amazed at the Incompetence said...

Not finish 485 before starting in other projects or directions??? That is just stupid and indicates that you have no touch with reality.

Anonymous said...

If you only conisder Charlotte, maybe she has a point. For EVERYONE ELSE in Meck County, I-485is critical.

Bikeways mandated on every road are a sure way to stop road/street construction. The cost to add them FAR outweight the benefits.

Anonymous said...

Mary, mMry, quite contrary, how does your whining go? You've been fighting I-485 ever since they moved the first shovel back in '88 haven't you? We didn't listen to you then, we aren't listening to you now. A good freeway system is just as important as a good transit system, and getting the final 5 miles of the outer loop will do great wonders connecting University City with North Meck in a timely fashion. While we're at it, can we work on making Independence a REAL freeway as well. Get rid of all the lights and driveways, put frontage roads on wither side like Texas, and put light rail in the median and it will do wonders for the corridor between Matthews and downtown. It will also speed Mary's U-Haul out of town when she realizes Charlotte's not the town for her.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious she's using reverse psychology. Genius!

Anonymous said...

Typical liberal mindset. Anything outside of mass transit is evil and wrongly justified. We should all move within walking distance of our jobs or a mass transit system. Give up our sports cars and SUV's for some 40 mpg eco friendly smart car and move out of those evil cul de sac subdivisions in the burbs and move closer to work. Mabye we should stop exhaling because that omits CO2 into the atmosphere and we all know how destructive that is.

Anonymous said...

THIS JUST IT....if the final link of I-485 is one and the circle is completed, Mary will spontaneously combust. TRUE, once the final slab of pavement is laid, the orange barrels are pulled aside and the first car stars moving on it, Mary's skin will turn red, her eyes will turn yellow, and POOF, she'll leave a big crater around her south Charlotte ranch house (whose impact will probably crumble some old building she had her arms wrapped around). I say do it! This should be very entertaining!

Anonymous said...

485 will cut your commute time... for about 2 years, at which point it will be choked with cheap, ad-lib development. I hope you north-meck folks enjoy fast food, massive apartment complexes, and strip malls. Because that is all you are ever going to see growing around 485.

Not to say it shouldn't be completed, but you are straight-up CRAZY if you think it's going to solve your traffic woes. This is Charlotte, people... as soon as you build it, the gridlock will come.

Anonymous said...

Let's don't build any more roads. Just more buses, trains, trolleys. But don't forget all the subsidies required to keep those afloat.

Anonymous said...

I am all for mass transit, and Charlotte needs to continue down that path. No doubt.
However,485 needs to be finished so it can work as it was designed!!
If Bev can't get it done, she should only have one term in office. Charlotte deserves this.

Anonymous said...

Written from her home computer in her nice Dilworth house, where she can walk to the market and to the bank and to Floyd the barber.

Anonymous said...

Reading the majority of these comments sort of makes me glad I no longer live in the state I used to love. I grew up in a rural area southeast of Charlotte, with it's own unique identity and character. That community, along with most others along the 485 loop, has long since been lost in an endless sea of big-box retailers, Ruby Tuesday's and poorly-built single family tract housing. How can any of this be justified? Where's the appeal in transforming our beautiful open landscape and unique towns and cities into a homogenous heap of American consumerism? We need to quit relying on an endless supply of cheap gas and autos to shape our communities, but instead focus on building those communities based on the human scale and definition of place. Invest in the future, not in this catastrophic dead-end blip on our history's radar known as suburbia.

Anonymous said...

For all of us that live in the University area, we keep asking the question of "Why did you do South Charlotte first?"

Jumper said...

WE need an outer outerbelt loop NOW! And we need to plan for the Shelby bypass bypass bypass NOW! I commute every day to Asheville from Charlotte! Because of LIBERALS!!! Arrrgggghhh! (head explodes)

Anonymous said...

What about new lights for existing sections of I-85, I-77, and 277/Brookshire??? The need has existed for simple upkeep for the last decade. They are dangerous, and negatively impact city image.

Anonymous said...

Concerning connectivity in residential neighborhoods - Right. Connect every street to every other street. So instead of having "some" roads in a neighborhood dangerous for children, have "every" road in the neighborhood dangerous for children. Cars and the convenience of drivers are what's important.

Anonymous said...

WHO CARES ABOUT SHELBY!!!!! NOBODY LIVES THERE. Anyways, 485 needs to be finished! I am a huge supporter of the transit system here in Charlotte but 485 needs to be a top priority and it needs to be finished. You can't be so naive Mary... just like roads are not the only solution, neither is only expanding transit. We need BOTH - a good road network and expanded mass transit options.

Anonymous said...

"Where's the appeal in transforming our beautiful open landscape and unique towns and cities into a homogenous heap of American consumerism"

Oh really? All I remember are a lot of trailer parks and rednecks. Come to think of it, there still are a lot of trailer parks and rednecks. I'm glad you at least moved away.. and you're not missed.

Anonymous said...

"The more connections, the less the load on any one road. And can we stop calling them "roads"? They're streets. Streets are what you have in cities. Roads are what you have in the country." - M. Newson

UC/NE Charlotte has only 1 East West Connector - WT Harris. By Building 458 it would be creating more connections by doubling it.

"They generally clog shortly after they open, because local elected officials happily OK just about any development proposed anywhere along the route -- thus packing the outerbelt with what is, essentially, local traffic." M. Newson

All the future exits for the 485 gap have been built out, Prosperity Church is a wreck and Concord Mills is a Mess. The local traffic exists without the relief of the expressway.


You think that every person should live the way you think - well some people dont want to live in Snobby, all white, rich neighborhoods like dilworth and your beloved city of davidson. Does that make you evil - no just different, and i except that.

So let me live in my diverse cul-de-sac, off the main Road - (yes there are all roads up here) in a house that is under 300k, next to the little remaining farm land in the City.

Your plan would take 20more years, create more impervious roads, get rid of the last remaining farm land and cost way to much.

But you live in Dilworth/Eastover/MPark so you know better - then us who choose different.

Get over yourself! After all its a city made not just a Downtown.

Steve

Anonymous said...

"We are on the fast track to be Atlanta - North Annex."

At least Atlanta's roads are more than two lanes or one lane in each direction rural highways. Georgia actually upgrades there roads to urban standards. There is still traffic because there is a lot of people. There is a lot of traffic in Charlotte because rural roads are handling urban traffic and they need to be upgraded.

Anonymous said...

"get rid of the last remaining farm land and cost way to much"

And sprawl will cause the farmland you love so much to go BYE BYE!! It is only a matter of time so get over it...

Anonymous said...

"look at Chicago, NY, DC, even Atlanta had enough foresight to put MARTA at the airport - but not Charlotte"

How the hell is building a train to the airport going to benefit anyone unless they are going to the airport? By the way, most of the traffic at Charlotte Douglas is from CONNECTING flights. Those people never even leave the airport. There isn't even a lot of traffic around the airport and most of the traffic on our roads are not caused by the airport. Building a train to the airport is not a priority right now.

Anonymous said...

THEY STARTED THE DAMN 485 LOOP SO FINISH IT ALREADY. WHAT IS THE POINT OF STOPPING IT NOW WITH ONLY 5 MILES TO GO? HONESTLY, PLEASE TELL ME WHAT IS THE POINT OF STOPPING IT NOW? FINISH IT!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Well Mary, it is too late now so finish the stupid 485 loop and we can all move on with our lives.

Anonymous said...

Finishing 485 is also about honoring the commitment that the NCDOT and the State made to Charlotte in the late 80s and early 90s. I remember when officials from NCDOT first approached my grandmother back then about purchasing land to build the outerbelt. The original projected date of completion per what these officials told us was 1998. Here it is 2009, its still not done, and no idea when it will be complete.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, lets just cut down all the trees and make 1,000 more streets. Dumb idea.
The people who are against completing 485 live in South Charlotte. They have links train. 74, 485-North, South, East and West, 77, Providence, South Blvd and all those other Streets. Us up North only want one other option. A Train, a road, 3 lanes rather than 2,something.

Anonymous said...

I would actually think the last segment of 485 is one of the most important parts because it connects 2 major highways in our region - 77 and 85. If any of the sections were to be built, this one actually makes the most sense.

Anonymous said...

This is a brain dead comment from someone who obviously does not live in the north east area. The light rail band-wagon has been around for a long time now, so drop it. You've seen it losing money and cut back services.

Anonymous said...

Charlotte's "transit system" is a JOKE. It's NINE miles that is only convenient if you live near or along South Blvd. it will take billions of dollars and many years to get that toy train up to speed where its convenient for more people to use. That train serves no area where I live, work, or play. WIDEN THE SOUTH LOOP AND FINISH THE FREAKING ROAD ALREADY!!!!

Anonymous said...

I am surprised about this article. The writer has obviously not been on I-77 North trying to get to off at exit 18 around 6:30 pm. I was going south and saw the back up almost to exit 16!!! This is absurd! Of course we need to finish it. We also need to stop making decisions based on personal preferences and needs.

Anonymous said...
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Kingward said...

If anything, I-485 is under- emphasized. It should have been completed sooner and should be widened to at least six lanes everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Guess what everyone?! This is a CITY and we are growing into a MAJOR METRO AREA and that means TRAFFIC! Either put your patience cap on and get used to more traffic or move to the middle of nowhere... don't know what else to tell any of you?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

What? April fools day was yesterday. I'm so glad you are not an elected representative.

ann said...

for all of the whiners...why did you choose a house/job that added up to a terrible commute? this is a free country...live wherever you want.

You sound jealous of hard working people that live in nicer areas of town...apparently the 'burbs aren't giving you the quality of life you thought they would?

Anonymous said...

Personally, I-485 does nothing for me....I avoid it like the plague.

Let's fix/repair our existing streets before creating new ones!

Anonymous said...

I am so tired of the Observer and its reporters/editors having a South Charlotte/Southpark mentality as if that is the entire Charlotte world. It's actually among the smallest. The north/northeast side of Charlotte has exploded in growth, and is in desperate need of this final five-miles. If you lived up here, you would know how critical it is. We've waited so long, and it's been pushed back and back and back. We finally get good news, and you come out with this editorial! I hope Bev Perdue ignores this and carries forward with her promise.

Anonymous said...

YES, DO MAKE 485 TOP PRIORITY.

Everybody please excuse the insanity of the elderly female who made this statement.

She is getting up in years and lost 75% of her brain cells due to senility.

A 3 mile stretch of 485 cost 220 million?

The city could have finished this for a couple million but it dosent matter as it is complete and total lunacy insanity not to have already had this done 10 yrs ago.

It will only lessen I-77 inner city congestion by 50% as thounsands of big rigs and cars could go around the city north or south instead of through it choking it up with more carbon dioxide and smpg congestion traffic gridlock etc.

The brain is a terrible thing to waste ... please see a shrink !!!

This reminds of the real nice 20 story PTL Tower that was 99% complete before Jim Bakker was arrested in 1988 and it was never completed even today.

Makes you wonder if 485 will ever be finished espec after dumb blogs like this from insane people.

Anonymous said...

I beat if she lived in the area not finished she would want it done. Those people that live in those areas paid there taxes just like everybody else. So why should they not get that section done also?

Anonymous said...

It's sort of strange to argue that more connectivity is needed and then argue against one of the biggest connections that needs to be made. I wonder what all those connected streets in S Charlotte would look like without 485... its not safe to argue that development wouldnt have occured without the highway... S Charlotte was steadily pushing south to start with. Unfortunately mass transit is only used by a very small percentage of the population where the service is available and goes where needed according to a schedule that works, nevermind parking. People want yards and cul de sacs outside the city, so developers should pay for the infrastructure and build the cost into the house. Then people can decide what is important to them.

Jason K. said...

One of the first segments of 485 that should have been completed is the connection between I85 and I77 on both ends. This lack of connection on the North end of town means that if you want to go from Concord to Huntersville or vice verse you either have to take a myrad of back roads with low speed limits, or you have to come up Harris.

If there was another Harris type road that connected Huntersville and Concord, then sure 485 could wait. But that road doesn't exist, and until it does traffic on Harris between 485 and 77 will continue to be unbariable during Rush hour traffic.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I never realized so many people are out of work until I visited this blog. If you can't get a job, get a life.

Anonymous said...

Or, could it be that not everyone is blue collar--like you?

Rick said...

So Mary, you didn't by chance get some early info on the upcoming announcements of the North and Northeast corridors' cost estimates did you?

Out of the blue, you're looking to divert money towards your pet projects that won't get built without it. Seems like an awfully panicky post for you.

The fact that you actually said "Yes, the money's in different legal "buckets." So change the law, already. Shows a bit of desperation and a huge amount of hypocrisy. That's type of statement you usually attack when talking about why government money can't be spent differently.

Either that, or you're just trying to pick the same old tired fight between urbanites and suburbanites.

Samantha said...

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Anonymous said...

I want to move beside Mary and smoke cigars, let my grass grow, buy a bunch chickens, put an old car on blocks, and anything else that would annoy this do gooder prude.

Kevin said...

Connectivity relieves congestion. Providing more options to get from point a to b is more effective than funneling everyone to one road. Widening roads is like loosening your belt at the buffet, it doesnt work. Land Use has as much to do with transportation problems as the lack of good streets.

rick b said...

It's interesting to see several comments saying that the final section of I-485 should have been the first..."to connect I-77 and I-85".

Believe it or not, I agree with them.

An urban loop should be a transportation project that connects a city's through freeways while bypassing the city itself.

But remember: I-485 was never built as a transportation project; it was built to provide access to land owned by politically-connected speculators and developers. It was designed to be a money printing press for these people.

Ever wonder why the first sections to be built were designed to boost the value of land owned by people like Johnny Harris and John Crosland...while really not providing any sort of interstate-to-interstate connection?

A proper urban loop road would have, perhaps, a dozen interchanges in a 65-mile length, not nearly 30! This is not a "proper loop road"...it is the theft of billions of dollars from the taxpayers by the politicians and their developer cronies. Thousands of acres of pure crap at every interchange...what a joke.

Ummmm...if you need any more proof of my (and Mary's) contention that I-485 created rather than solved traffic problems? Just check out the increased congestion on Providence Road, 521, Idlewild Road...in short, any local thoroughfare that crosses the disaster known as I-485.

Now, they're trying to do the same thing in Union County with the so-called "Monroe Bypass". First, the proposed cost for this little 21-mile-long strip of pavement is nearly $800 million...and climbing. Wanna bet it far exceeds a cool billion when all is said and done?

Second - and far worse - every map I see of this idiocy has more interchanges than the previous one. The last map I saw was up to 10, I believe.

This was supposed to be a project, very legitimate, to carry through traffic - particularly truck traffic - around Monroe. It was meant to provide a critical link for commercial traffic from the coast and its ports to the inland transportation hubs.

Now what does it look like it's being designed to do?

Why, provide instant multibillion-dollar profits for a few connected developers, that's what. The "bypass" is meant to be an artery carrying the local traffic that will drive from cul-de-sac subdivisions to strip shopping centers; in short, as Mary posted about I-485, "...local elected officials happily OK just about any development proposed anywhere along the route -- thus packing the outerbelt with what is, essentially, local traffic."

Just imagine - if your stomach is strong enough - the standstill congestion that will result on the 2-lane north-south roads, such as Faith Church Road, Indian Trail Road, and the rest of them, that cross this monstrosity.

I suspect that the reason that the number of interchanges keeps increasing is that another favorite crony finally assembles a big enough piece of spec land out in the countryside; at that point, he's off to his buddies at the DOT or the Turnpike Authority and voila...another traffic-choking interchange for another well-connected developer goes on the map.

It is a disgrace and, as far as I'm concerned, a criminal offense. We do need bypasses - even I admit that. The shame of it is, if the Monroe Bypass had been built with three interchanges: one at each end, and one in the middle, at 601, for industry...it would have been built years ago, and the current US74 would have returned to sanity.

Oh, and another "unintended consequence"?

As new, big-'n-crappy strip shopping centers spring up at interchanges a mile or two north of the existing US74, the life will be sucked out of the current boulevard. The big boxes will empty out one by one, the remaining retail strips will deteriorate and eventually consist mainly of strip joints, check cashing places, pawnshops, and funky operations with no signs and blacked-out windows. Look around Charlotte in former commercial strips near a new bypass...and see what I mean.

As it is, we've paid and paid: first in money, second in construction delay, and third: the ongoing future payment for the additional sprawl, congestion, and county-borne infrastructure costs (such as schools) that all the development at each interchange will spawn.

All to line the pockets of a few of "the privileged".

Anonymous said...

The immediate completion or widening of I-485 should be predicated upon the demand for trips on it via trucks or autos. A large part of that demand comes in part from persons who are housed, or who want to be housed, way out in the boondocks so society can gobble up more farmland and green space, and therefore perpetuate the demand that we build or improve more highways and repeat the wasteful cycle.

Maybe I’ve been reading the wrong economic indicators, but we are part of a global community, and have just started feeling the effects of a global recession - second only (so far) to the Great Depression. The price of gasoline has dropped dramatically, not because of some OPEC whim, but because the demand for it has dropped dramatically. People are out of work. People are driving much less as a result, and driving “wiser”. People want to drive less distance. People will have to drive less distance if they want to survive financially. And people will have to depend more on public transportation.

So where is the demand for I-485 nowadays?

I have my doubts we will ever return to the “American Dream” of two-wage-earner households creating enough disposable income to operate two gas-guzzlers and maintain a 4,000-square-foot home on a 2-acre spread in the country on which to raise just two children. We’ll be lucky considering the global competition to have one-earner households.

And as far as people planning to buy or build in the suburbs, and by that I mean the wide-open countrified fringe areas around Charlotte, not within the city limits itself since a city can’t be a burb, where is the demand for that in this economy? Developers may or may not be completing current projects out there in the boonies, but it’s obvious that demand for far-flung lebensraum has suddenly diminished, as people want to remain closer to existing health, education and scare employment facilities.

You are absolutely right, Mary. We have our priorities all wrong. The emphasis should be on improving traffic flow within and between our urban areas, rather than wasting it on dinosaurs like I-485.

Why would anyone in his or her right mind ignore our real future?

Anonymous said...

"The planner is a potential dictator who wants to deprive all other people of the power to plan and act according to their plans. He aims at one thing only: the exclusive absolute preeminence of his own plan" Ludwig Von Mises

Mary said...

Good post and comments. I don't have the education and data to know what would be best for most Charlotteneans for the least amount of money. I think there would be enough educated people who can make the best decisions. It seems that they can't or won't. So, I prefer they don't take any more of my money.

Anonymous said...

Go to the Heroes blog on the Obsever entertainment page. Too funny.

Anonymous said...

Having been raised in Charlotte, and never experiencing true mass transit like Chicago and Atlanta until my adult life , I think the light rail is definately a step in the right direction for Charlotte. However,what a shame at the lost potential the light rail COULD have had. The light rail would have even been more of a success if any forethought had been put into it's placement.

Being placed along South Blvd doees nothing to alleviate 485 congestion...everyone still has to clog up 485 every morning to get to S. Blvd to take the train. More tax payers would absolutely benefit from widening 485.

I guess the light rail/485 planners are the same yahoo's that have planned a "public park" with our tax money that has now become a soccer complex at a CMS elementary school via contract with SCSA that will host 10,000 people per month on a two lane road with 92 parking spaces! Oh - another road project for the city!! And how many of you tax payers will get to use that "park"? Little to none - SCSA can force you to leave a park YOU paid for!

Charlotte Roads, Charlotte Schools, Charlotte management - a trend is showing people...

Our tax money well at work fellow Charlottians...????

Is there any wonder at the mass exodus to bordering SC communities?

Anonymous said...

STOP LYING MARY:

Atlanta recently reconfigured its transportation funding system to prioritize congestion reduction.

http://charlotte.creativeloafing.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A148154

We are SO SICK OF YOUR BULL$HIT.

Anonymous said...

Mary is nothing more than an advocate for the state. Basically a weak minded person.

Anonymous said...

I am a college student studying in Ireland for 1 year. Coming from the QC, I was addicted to my car, like any true charlottean is. But I will tell you all, mostly the ones who constantly bash Mary's ideas, you can get on just fine without your vehicle.

I have been here for nearly 8 months, and have yet to miss my car. When I need to get somewhere I take the bus, BIG DEAL! I live in the City, so I can walk most places, but the students that live outside of the city, well they take the bus. Good luck convincing my friends at UNC to do the same.

I was recently in Amsterdam, and from what I gather from Mary's posts, I have a feeling this is her dream city. There are 2 or 4 lane BIKE HIGHWAYS everywhere, which run along side of a wonderful, clean light-rail system. Bikes are the number one mode of transportation in Amsterdam, there are 1.5 million bikes in a city of 800k. Being in the city was almost spooky, it was incredibly quiet due to the lack of cars. You could actually hear people chatting and birds singing, like being in downtown Charlotte at 7am on a Sunday morning.

Needles to say, I believe that 485 should be finished. There is no point in having gone this far to make a C instead of a O. But after it is finished, lets get serious about rail. For those of you who say we are not 'designed' for rail, the development will come, much like it already has along the blue line.

Instead of developers flocking to areas around new roads, they will want to build around the line. It's an investment that needs to be made, regardless if the support or need is evident now.

Anonymous said...

Yep, we should complete I-485. The drag racers and drunken wrong-way drivers who use it now need more space. And besides, if we were to focus on rail connectivity between cities, that might curtail the freedom of the speed demons to race down routes like York Road and kill two or three people.

We can relieve the congestion on our highways simply by raising the speed limits so we can push more traffic through in the same amount of time.

Anonymous said...

I don’t know if this was true for the Charlotte area, but in the early twentieth century many parts of our nation had cheap, easy connectivity via inter-urban electric rail lines. These “cars” served not only major cities, but also each and every little Podunk community in between, and some lines were there just to serve the boondocks. Applying the pattern that existed then in heavily populated areas to what could have been (or hopefully will be someday) in the Charlotte Metropolitan area, a person could catch a car in Monroe and with transfers to other electric lines visit Gastonia, Rock Hill or Mooresville.

Back in the 1960s I was hunting in a large woods in northeastern Ohio, 45 miles from the nearest city of any size, and stumbled upon what appeared to be a long-abandoned railroad bed. I later asked an old-timer which train used to pass through there. He explained that it wasn’t a “train” track but a route for one of the old inter-urban electric car lines. As automobiles became more popular, demand for that type of public transportation eventually ceased, and the lines began to be abandoned in the late 1920s.

Like the song asks, “Don’t it always seem to be, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone?”

On another note, maybe instead of snarling at one another over whether cars rule and trains drool, or vice-versa, maybe we should ask our governments just why is it that road or rail construction costs are so outlandishly high? Are we sure that the “overseers” are really making sure that our tax dollars are spent wisely, or are we vastly overpaying for those projects, and thereby delaying further construction for lack of dollars?

Anonymous said...

I prefer a car anyday of the week. Trains limit your ability to be mobile. Who wants to ride in a train packed full of people that smell, are rude, and just plain annoying?

Anonymous said...

Gee, I didn't know that people in automobiles don't smell. Maybe you've been sniffing too many of those pine-scented thingies that hang from your mirror.

As for rude and annoying, no one is more annoying or ruder than those who feel they can take the law into their own hands and drive as fast and as recklessly as they want,all under the guise of "independence". The thumb their nose at law-abiding society in general every day. It's all about them - never about the group as a whole. And they stink up the countryside with the pollutants from their smog machines ... er, autos.

When was the last time you saw two electric trains drag racing and running law-abiding drivers off the road?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:15:00:

Stop talking about Mary's family like that!

Anonymous said...

Isn't is funny how people who ride public transportation think they are holier than thou. These leeches need to take some leasons on how to be self sufficient.

Anonymous said...

Hahahahahaha!

"Isn't is funny how people who ride public transportation think they are holier than thou. These leeches need to take some leasons on how to be self sufficient."

You are FUNNY. You are not even remotely self sufficient. If not for the government paving the roads for you, and the United States Navy guarding the seaways to get the oil coming to Port Fourchon, and the colonial pipeline, your fat caboose would go nowhere.

It's funny how you naysayers can use stupid cliches like that after the hurricane, when you all conducted yoruselves like overgrown children and demanded the government provide you with cheap gas. If you want to claim you are self sufficient, you better have a horse. Or a bike.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:47 just another example of a holier than thou comment. You should thank me for subsidizing your ride to work. Look people who drive cars pay property tax on vehicles, state sales tax on gasoline which I might add is the highest in the Southeast. We also pay federal tax on gasoline. What do bus riders or light rail riders pay? Not even enough to cover the cost of the ride. At least be fair and pay your fair share buddy!

Anonymous said...

The majority of funds for building roads come from property taxes and non-gasoline sales taxes. It's motorists who aren't paying their fair share.

Anonymous said...

6:47 - Government doesn't provide me with gas. Exxon and Halliburton do.

Anonymous said...

Taxation is SLAVERY!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

8:38 - Got a cite for that? Didn't think so.

The facts are exactly backwards, which is why Bumpkin Bev is stealing highway money for her slush funds.

Anonymous said...

08:56:00, without the United States Navy, Exxon and Halliburton would not be providing anyone with oil.

Telemaque said...

08:57:00 AM, go look up your own city budget, and county budget, and state budget.

Gas taxes pay for interstates. For local roads they barely contribute a pittance.

Anonymous said...

TEA PARTY PROTEST DOWNTOWN CHARLOTTE APRIL 15TH. NO MORE TAXES!!!!!!

Steve said...

Since I use the NW quadrant of 485 fairly regularly, I like the fact that it ends at I-77 and NC 115. There's not that much traffic on the new stretch of road right now. And how much will that "$220 million" turn out to be by the time the remaining 5 miles are built?

Yes, in a rational system, the connector from I-85 to I-77 would have been built earlier, rather than last. But we can take the delay as an opportunity not to make the mistakes made in building the early stretches on the south side (such as too many exits in places and not enough in others, each causing more congestion). It has been an expensive lesson, so maybe we should learn it and take heed.

Steve said...

For everyone who says that 485 should be completed, fine, complete it. But do so with NO INTERCHANGES along the new section. Then the people using it will be using it for its supposed "intended purpose" which is as a BYPASS and not for local on and off traffic.

Anonymous said...

I am 16 years old, & I don't drive a car yet. But I have seen what 485 can do for Mecklenburg County and outside places in proximity to it. I live on the Sector between Harrisburg Road NC 24 & 27. When my mother and I go out to visit relatives, shop, etc, We use I-485 and I-485 only. So Suburbanites think of I-485 as an easier way to travel to other areas around Charlotte. Urbanites wanting wider streets work good for the areas they surround. But from reading all the comments Its almost like we are in two different worlds. From my observations most people in Suburban areas general avoid the inner-city and really have no need for it. Also places like the University area or areas around a mall generate a lot of traffic. especially from people from the Suburbs. So would you rather we all go through the city to places we need to go and cause more gridlocks? or simply go around in a more freely and easier way? I think the Inner-city's cry for light rails and wider streets and more connectivity is a must if our city was more grid-shaped. But we are wheel shaped with most roads acting like spokes going from inner-city areas to suburbs. So things that worked in New York, Chicago, and Atlanta won't necessarily work for us. Sure I-485 will have development along its interchanges, that is only because more people are moving to the suburbs from other places and they need places to shop and fill up their cars and such. Of course Urbanites can walk more places and take buses and light-rails to do the same things Suburbanites do with their cars. To be honest, I like the fact I live in a more suburban area where I-485 is a must. Like how Mary appears to like her Dilworth home. So I'm like the rest of you who simply hate the gap between I-77 and I-85. Harris Blvd between the University area and Northlake Mall could use relief. Widening Harris Blvd wouldn't solve the problem because most I-485 traffic heading to North Charlotte have to use Harris and intermingle with more local traffic. Other places are like this too. Such as the segment of I-485 that bypasses Mint Hill and Matthews traffic on NC 51 going towards Pineville and I-77 south. So it seems to me that this problem matters on where you live and what you do in your activity space. If Mary chose to live in a Suburb, she wouldn't have a choice but to use I-485 in some place she went. But since she doesn't, bettering the inner-city is of course going to be her focus. But I-485 being finished is a focus for anyone who uses it. And When Bev Perdue didn't keep her promise, of course that hit home with people like us who use it. So if I-485 is finished. Charlotte can move on to thier numerous transportation issues over our one issue.