Bypass resolution gains steam despite protests

HEMBY BRIDGE – A group working to kill to the proposed Monroe Bypass hopes to enlighten area residents next week about what they see as the project’s shortcomings, while area leaders continue speaking out in favor of the nearly 20-mile highway.

The group MonroeBypassFacts.com will meet Tuesday, April 2, to discuss in part a recent resolution spearheaded by the Union County Chamber of Commerce and championed by area towns and leadership boards supporting the bypass. The resolution says the highway is a much-needed tool in alleviating traffic for Union County commuters and providing an economic boom for towns currently discussing partnerships to increase commercial real estate. Stallings leaders voted in favor of the resolution last week, despite Mayor Lynda Paxton’s protests, and Indian Trail is expected to bring the resolution to a vote soon.

“I feel strongly in support of the resolution of the bypass and I feel once it goes before council, the majority of council will support it, as well,” said Indian Trail councilmember Chris King, who will work to get the resolution added to an upcoming town agenda. Indian Trail has been working with Stallings and Matthews and Mint Hill in Mecklenburg County – all towns that could be affected by the bypass – to find ways to expand commercial real estate in the area. All four towns suffer from residential property owners making up too much of their tax bases, something that could be alleviated if the bypass brought in more businesses.

But the anti-bypass advocacy group      MonroeBypassFacts.com, along with the Southern Environmental Law Center and select town leaders in western Union County, say the benefits of the proposed road have been overstated in a blind rush to build a project with $800 million that could better be spent on U.S. 74 or Old Monroe Road.

“We’re trying to get the facts out to people and bring people around to the consensus that the Monroe Bypass is a large waste of money and isn’t the best way to improve traffic,” said Karen Thomas, an organizer of MonroeBypassFacts.com.

Thomas stands to lose her eastern Union County farm if the bypass is built, she said.

“People need to know that the state’s own studies show the bypass will not alleviate traffic in the Stallings or Indian Trail area, though if you ask people why they think the state is building the bypass, the first thing they’re going to tell you is ‘to make it easier to get into Charlotte.’”

The MonroeBypassFacts.com meeting will take place Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Hemby Bridge Community Center, at 7604 Secrest Short Cut Road.

What impact the bypass will have on commute times is still up for debate, with one local leader saying studies show it could reduce commute times on U.S. 74 by as much as five to seven minutes – or as few as 18 seconds. Some have argued the money might better be spent on improving U.S. 74, Old Monroe Road or even bringing a light rail line to Matthews.

The bypass, a toll road, would stretch from eastern Mecklenburg County to the Marshville area. Meanwhile, state officials are working on improvements to U.S. 74 that could include toll lanes or possibly a future light rail line in the center of the highway to help congestion there.

Stallings and the Union County Board of Commissioners recently approved a resolution supporting the bypass, though members of the Southern Environmental Law Center say the resolution is riddled with contradictions when compared to state transportation department studies.

Regardless if the resolution is a bit too optimistic in terms of the road’s ability to transform western Union County, some area leaders say the project is a must have.

When economic development groups have tried to bring businesses into Union County in the past, “we found a lot of people would begin to travel down U.S. 74 … and they would turn around and say, ‘We can’t come here,’” said Sharon Rosche, president of the Union County Chamber of Commerce. “If we did have that much-needed traffic-helper road, it will do wonders for the entire county.”

Rosche said the road’s approval would be particularly good news to logistic companies, giving them “a big leg up, especially during the summer and fall” because of beach traffic.

Rosche said the chamber will continue circulating its resolution supporting the bypass before taking it to state legislators.

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