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Highway 160 Widening Projects Make First Cut for 2040 Plan

Highway 160(July 31, 2013) Staff of the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRTPO) have completed the Tier 1 review of projects for inclusion in its 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan, and several Steele Creek projects made the cut for continuation to the Tier 2 evaluation:

Rank       Project                                                                                                                       
#2 (tie)     Widening I-77 from Woodlawn Road to I-485
#21          Widening S Tryon Street (to 6 lanes) from I-485 to Steele Creek Road
#33 (tie)   Garden Parkway from I-485 to the Gaston County line (Catawba River)
#36 (tie)   Widening Steele Creek Road (Hwy 160) from Shopton Road W to S Tryon Street
#44 (tie)   Widening Steele Creek Road (Hwy 160) from S Tryon Street to the South Carolina

See the entire list HERE. This will open a PDF file of the candidate projects with their Tier 1 scores in a new browser window.

At the July 11 meeting of the Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC), CRTPO staff said that the top 85 of 213 ranked projects would continue to the Tier 2 evaluation. About 30 projects will survive to make the final 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP). Decisions on which projects to include in the final MTP are based not only on the merits of the projects but also on the anticipated available funding over the upcoming years. CRTPO approval of the final project list is anticipated in October 2013. The full plan, expected to be completed in March 2014, will recommend that these surviving projects be funded and completed within the next 25 years.

Terminology Changes
The Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MUMPO, is transitioning to its new name, the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, or CRTPO.
    The 2040 Long range Transportation Plan is now called the 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

The process involves two major sets of geography. First is the CRTPO boundary, which includes all of Mecklenburg County, all of Iredell County except the northern rural portions, and all of Union County except the of northeastern and southern rural portions.  (Click HERE to open a map of the CRTPO area showing all candidate projects in a new browser window.) Second are the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Highway Divisions. Mecklenburg and Union Counties are in Highway Division 10, and the Tier 1 ranking scores for projects in these counties have been completed. Scores are still under development for projects in Iredell County, which is in Highway Division 12.

The MTP candidate projects include many that involve interstate highways, including five of the six top ranked projects. If the top interstate projects are chosen for construction, there likely would be little funds left for other projects. The final list likely will include several lower ranked, non-interstate projects to ensure that funding is distributed to areas throughout the planning area.

Like most interstate highways, I-77 initially was constructed as a 4-lane highway with a grassy median. It was widened to 6 lanes some years ago by eliminating the grassy median. Any future widening of I-77 would involve the acquisition of additional right of way and reconstruction of overpasses and bridges, which would make the widening of I-77 from Woodlawn Road to I-485 a very expensive project.

The widening of S Tryon Street from I-485 to Steele Creek Road to six lanes is ranked higher than either of the two Steele Creek Road projects (north and south of S Tryon Street). If S Tryon Street ranks high in the final ranking but local opinion supports widening Steele Creek Road instead, CRTPO could decide that funding allocated to the Steele Creek area could be given to Steele Creek Road over S Tryon Street.

The Garden Parkway is a controversial toll road that would begin at I-85 west of Gastonia, continue through southern Gaston County, cross the Catawba River, and connect with I-485 at the West Boulevard interchange. Its future is currently very much in doubt.

Once CRTPO approves the 2040 MTP, NCDOT will evaluate the included projects to see which should be added to the statewide Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) (also called the Seven Year Plan) when it is updated, likely in late 2014.

The best case scenario would be that the widening of Steele Creek Road will slide onto the bottom of the list in the seven year TIP and slowly move up in the ranking, possibly being started in about eight years at the soonest.

The worst case scenario is that Steele Creek Road does not make the 2040 MTP at all, and thus its widening would still not occur for over 25 years.

Steele Creek residents need to monitor the development of the draft 2040 MTP and be prepared to provide comments later this fall.

Steele CreekSee Highway 160 Widening will have Tough Squeeze through Funding Funnel (April 1, 2013) for additional information about the ranking process.

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