Indian Trail has choice to make on Old Monroe

INDIAN TRAIL – Talks are moving forward on widening Old Monroe Road between Matthews and Indian Trail, as the North Carolina Department of Transportation has suggested Indian Trail pitch in town bond money and put the entire project out to bid as one instead of breaking it into segments.

That’s just one idea among many being discussed as the state works with Indian Trail and Stallings in Union County, and Matthews in Mecklenburg County, on improving the much-maligned road. The project has been broken down into three sections, from Matthews to Interstate 485, from I-485 to Indian Trail Road and from Indian Trail Road to Wesley Chapel-Stouts Road.

Speaking at the town’s Tuesday, July 9, council meeting, Indian Trail leaders were torn on what is the best way to improve congestion for local drivers. The town could take its $10 million in bond money, which must be spent on Old Monroe in some way according to the bond, and invest it all into completing one of the two Indian Trail sections of road. Town manager Joe Fivas, speaking about Indian Trail’s options on Wednesday, July 10, said “$10 million could go a long way toward the widening if that’s what we wanted to do,” but Fivas is more interested in getting grants and partnerships with other towns and departments to “make sure the road is completed and done right.”

Combining the three phases into one large project would make it more efficient for NCDOT, which could have one contractor do the entire project and possibly save money through the single bid. But that also would mean possibly as much as a year and a half of solid work on the roadway before it’s complete, while if it’s broken into phases one phase could be complete while another is being constructed. Fivas said it likely will be up to the contractor to decide at which end of Old Monroe work would start. If the town pitches in its $10 million for the entire project, that could give area leaders more leverage in pushing for the project to start on the Indian Trail
side.

Councilman Chris King said at Tuesday’s meeting he’s in favor of the proposal to do the project in one piece, so long as the town shows it’s serious about spending that $10 million to fix Old Monroe soon. While spending the $10 million to complete just one phase, such as the portion from I-485 to Waxhaw-Indian Trail Road, would improve congestion in that area, some on council pointed out it would still create bottlenecks where the four lanes transition back into two lanes, and would do little to improve commutes into the Charlotte area using Old Monroe.

Others, such as Councilman Robert Allen, disagree. Allen said the town should use that $10 million as soon as possible to complete one phase of the project and force NCDOT’s hand to complete the other phases and keep up with Indian Trail’s pace.

“The economy’s coming back; we need to be ready for it,” Allen said, adding that businesses are more likely to come to Indian Trail if they will be located on a four-lane road instead of a two-lane road.

Whether completing one phase would speed up construction on the other phases is unclear. NCDOT is targeting 2018 for some of the work, while the stretch in Matthews currently has no money attached to it and could be pushed back as late as 2040. The complete cost of the project won’t be known until environmental studies are completed, likely in the second half of 2014.

Indian Trail leaders also may factor in conversations with Stallings and Matthews about how to spend the $10 million. The towns are working together on the project, and officials in Stallings may want to throw their opinion into the debate as Indian Trail continues talks with NCDOT.

“We’re going to work and try to do what’s best for all three towns, certainly,” Fivas said.

Have thoughts on what Indian Trail should do regarding widening Old Monroe Road? Send a letter to the editor with your thoughts to news@unioncountyweekly.com. Letters should be fewer than 400 words.

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