Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Well, on Christmas Eve I took a drive around the area...it started gloomy but lo and behold the sun came out later in the afternoon today.
Started by going into Elizabeth, specifically to the old St. Michael's Church. The area still has the dirt and grime of winter...the soot of past ice and snows...the piles of leaves from empty homes a lifeless brown.
A lot of town is empty...the old community library is gone...and all that is left is the Red Lion, more than enough pizza shops to feed the area four times over, and not much else. Old businesses I remember are long gone...many with empty storefronts showcasing whatever dusty old leftovers were there when they closed up.
I headed up Bayard St. to the old church. I was baptized here, I had my first communion here, my family worked the old fair here. The church was condemned in 1987 (if I recall correctly). Amazingly, everything has been left in place since that day. There are still yellowed out missilette and song books. A lot of the old ornamental items (at least what I could see through a few doors) were there. In some cases, the kneelers on the pews were still down. What's different is the plaster is starting to fall off.
Someone, perhaps the current parish staff, or a resident of the neighborhood, or perhaps someone else, has put wreathes up at the old doors to the church...and a small manger scene at the church headstone. (which still lists the mass schedule from 1987).
Our parish was founded in 1851. I can't remember when the old church was built. I could have sworn that there was an old corner stone showing the year of construction, but I couldn't locate it. Maybe the headstone was what I was thinking of.
Nothing says Merry Christmas, than a wreath covering up a master lock padlock and chains shutting the doors of the old church shut. I stood in the courtyard/school playground and remembered some memories of St. Michael's when growing up.
The cold of Christmas in 1983 when it was -10 below zero. Parking on the neighborhood streets to walk to mass. The church fair which really was a town festival and was more alive than any of the other's at the new church since. The lack of A/C and Fr. George skipping a homily when it was too hot. People standing down the sides during the holidays or during a special mass. The choir in the balcony above the church.
I'm not overly religious of a person..and i don't go to mass as often as I should now. But that old church still has a special part of my growing up. My younger brother was one of the last to be baptized there in the Summer of 1987. Not that long after...we had to go to Sisters of the Divine Redeemer (a nunnery) while the new church was being completed.
The closing of the old church didn't go without a fight. I was only 10 then and I wonder if it was condemned to end the squabble over it. The new church is big and is still very modern even though it is now 20 years old. But there is still something missing about going to church within a small community vs. an open field in the township.
The saddest part was the statue of St. Michael that stood above the entrance to the church..which many hope would have moved to the new church...has started to deteriorate and fall apart.
The condition of the church...looks sound from a distance...but the little glimpses you can see...from the glass doors...showing the crumbing walls and the yellowed hymnals...to the rotting wood fascia and soffit and door trim. It's easy to see how 20 years of neglect can wear down a once elegant yet simple church.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
A number of issues have hurt the completion of this segment, mainly utility and right of way issues. The contractor has just recently begun to poor concrete.
This will be the last segment of I-485 to be completed in Charlotte until after 2015.
Story: Charlotte Observer
Sunday, December 16, 2007
WFMY-TV in Greensboro has a video drive of the soon to be opened highway on its website.
The video shows that the new loop will be signed as Future I-73/I-840 which pretty much cements the routing of I-73 from NC 68 to US 220 as Bryan Blvd and the Greensboro Loop.
It also appears that the Southwest Corner of the loop that will complete the I-40 Bypass will open sometime in the Spring of 2008.
Story: Western Portion of the Urban Loop to Open Tuesday ---WFMY-TV
Video of the Western Loop ---WFMY-TV
HT: Billy Coore
Sunday, December 09, 2007
NC 16 Trip: Local Roads to NC 16 in Lucia. NC 16, NC 10, US 321 Business, Local Roads to Mount Holly.
Checked out the new NC 16 highway. A few things. NC 273 still ends at what was NC 16. The former NC 16 is now NC 16 Business. Currently, the new highway runs to an interchange with NC 73. It is posted at 55 mph and although there were no at grade intersection on the new highway, There are a few turnarounds. NC 16 is briefly routed East on NC 73 before picking up the old alignment. This is where NC 16 Business currently ends. And it has been signed as such.
Between NC 73 and Denver, there's a former Phillips 66 gas station. It has to have sat empty for a number of years. But it will be a great add to Carolina Lost. My friend Steven, who grew up in the area and with his wife drives past here numerous times a year, had never seen this old station until this trip. Amazing what an extra set of eyes can find.
We drove through Denver (North Carolina).
NC 16 has been moved to the new bypass east of Newton. The old route through town is now Business 16.
Headed south on US 321 Business towards Lincolnton. US 321 Business was for a short time NC 155. For the most part, it was erased so quickly that there are no remains left of it...except on street sign blades in Lincoln County.
Return trip to Raleigh:
Stopped at the Rest Area at mile marker 101 that has the NC Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It is a very humble yet powerful memorial honoring those that died in the Vietnam Conflict.
Also at the memorial, a 1906 Pratt Pony Truss bridge that sat in Stokes County. The bridge was built by the Roanoke Bridge Company and now crosses North Hamby Creek.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
For other photos at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, click here.
And related stories:
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Currently six lanes wide until State St., Erie Blvd. would be reduced to four lanes from 890 to State St. Erie Blvd. is quite possibly the most historic thoroughfare in Schenectady. Once, the Erie Canal flowed along its alignment. Later, after the canal was filled in, Erie Blvd. was the gateway to the city's largest employer, General Electric.
The changes - besides reducing the lanes - would include a roundabout at South Ferry St., pedestrian crosswalks, a landscaped median, and street lighting. The goal is to make one of the city's busiest highway's more visually appealing.
Construction would start in 2009 and last through 2011.
An idea of what Erie Blvd could look like. (Clough Harbour and Associates/Albany Times-Union
Here's a few shots of Erie Blvd. that Doug took today:
This is the beginning of Erie Blvd. - and the start of the proposed project - at I-890 and General Electric. Doug is traveling North on Erie Blvd. throughout.
The next two photos are on Erie Blvd. at South Ferry Blvd. This is where the proposed roundabout would go. The roundabout would allow traffic to reverse direction on Erie Blvd. A maneuver that is considerably dangerous today.
Erie Blvd. at State Street (NY 5). This intersection is rather congested during afternoon and evening rush hours. This is also where most of the major changes to Erie Blvd. will end.
Finally, beyond State St. to Union, possible improvement include a small median. As you can see, the road is much narrower here than it is at I-890.
Story: Erie Boulevard makeover unveiled ---Albany Times-Union
From August through December of 2006, Erie Boulevard was part of my commute to work. We moved our office to Erie Blvd. from Rotterdam that August. I will say that the makeover would make Erie Boulevard a more visually appealing drive.
However, sticking points at I-890 and State Street will continue. The roundabout at South Ferry St. will certainly allow for safer traffic movements. The roundabout along with other changes to Erie Boulevard will slow down traffic and make the road more pedestrian friendly. But will this encourage business along the corridor? Who knows, there are a few businesses and some fast food spots from 890 to State St. But overall, there's a lot more that will be needed along Erie Boulevard for it and Schenectady to be as active as it once was over 30 years ago.
The makeover is a great thing and a good start. But there's a lot more needed and hopefully will be done to breathe life into a stagnant city.
With the DOT and DNR mitigation agreement over land at the Little Pee Dee River Heritage Preserve all but completed (It should officially be agreed to later this month), South Carolina was able to get the go ahead from the federal government.
Currently, there is no set timetable for land acquisition let alone construction; however, the highway could be completed within ten years.
The Northern Segment from I-95 to I-74 in Hamlet, North Carolina could see the same federal approval sometime in the next year.
Story: I-73 gets key approval from SC, federal officials ---The State
Story Link: http://www.charlotte.com/409/story/384616.html
Why are we delaying the completion of 1-485 in Charlotte again?
I read in The Charlotte Observer how rising prices of materials are leading to the delay. Why didn't these same rising costs delay the loops in Fayetteville and Wilmington?
Why are we building loops in Fayetteville and Wilmington before we complete the one in Charlotte?
We were working on the one in Charlotte back when I was mayor. That was 20 years ago!
... Last I looked Charlotte was the largest city in the state. There seems to be no recognition of that fact in Raleigh. No recognition that we are at a standstill with traffic. No recognition that we have a traffic problem.
Nor is there any recognition of the fact that the state DOT utterly botched up the southern leg of our yet to be completed loop by only putting in two lanes where there should have been four. So not only is the loop not complete, what is complete is already backlogged. When we called on you to fix that, you delayed that, too. It's still not fixed!
I fear that the N.C. Department of Transportation and the General Assembly do not fully realize the repercussions of these continual delays and how crucial this project is to the wellbeing of our residents. Aside from the fact that commuters are already forced to crawl in rush hour traffic, I must also point out that this delay has security implications.
If for no other reason, please reconsider our loop so that Charlotte is prepared to deal with any mass evacuation that, Lord willing, will never be required, but for which we should prepare.
Charlotte is home to two of the largest banks in the world, hosted the first and only trial of Hezbollah in the United States and is surrounded by two nuclear power plants. These facts make Charlotte increasingly susceptible to a man-made or terrorist activity requiring a mass evacuation.
In the event of such an emergency, the completion of this portion of highway is crucial to making sure Charlotte residents are able to be evacuated in a safe and timely manner. Pushing back this project continues to put citizens' safety at risk. That is unacceptable.
The other issue here is fairness. The outerbelt delay is merely symbolic of a number of road projects left to wither on the vine of DOT projects while less deserving ones down East get the money. Garden parkway, Monroe bypass, Charlotte outerbelt, etc. Raleigh couldn't care less.
We need relief from the state NOW. It must be nice for areas around the state capital and toward the coast to keep having their projects fully supported, and we all know why that is. But allocating money through political clout and the good ole boy network is no way to run a state.
We pay our fair share of taxes on this side of the state. When are we going to get our fair share of the services for which we paid? Why do only a handful of people in Raleigh get to decide who drives on four-lane roads and who sits in traffic?
People call us the Great State of Mecklenburg, implying that somehow wanting to get fair representation and fair allocation out of Raleigh amounts to arrogance on our part.
True arrogance is allowing the state to be split into East vs. West, and the east getting all the spoils because the General Assembly, as a whole, does not have the backbone to stand up to a few of its leaders and tell them to cut it out.
There are a few things that should be pointed out in Rep. Myrick's letter. First, the DOT did not botch the southern portion of I-485. When it was planned and built, the idea of the amount of growth in places like Pineville, Ballantyne, and parts of Union County (Waxhaw) was not expected. Remember, that the first parts of I-485 were built in the late 80s, and the area exploded in growth in the 1990s. So did the DOT botch the Southern Part of I-485? No.
Myrick also brings up the classic Charlotte vs. Raleigh and Western NC vs. Eastern NC rivalry. And it does exist, after living in both Charlotte and Raleigh, I can attest to that. But she doesn't talk about the rivalry within Mecklenburg County. In 2005, when the widening of I-485 in Ballantyne was pushed forward in the schedule - thus delaying the completion of the loop from I-77 near Huntersville to I-485 near Concord and University - there was a lot of bickering between political leaders in the towns of Northern Mecklenburg County vs. the City of Charlotte.
And she isn't alone about bickering about the Eastern North Carolina projects moving forwards. The larger cities including Greensboro and Raleigh over the past two to three years have voiced their displeasure over freeways being built in rural areas of Eastern NC. The core of that issue is the balance funding rule within DOT between the various DOT districts. Early this decade and in the late 90s, a lot of the projects in Charlotte and the large cities benefited from funding that was for projects (not ready to move forward) in the Eastern part of the state. Well now those projects are ready and the balance has shifted.
I am surprised that Myrick didn't mention in her letter that Tippett is from Fayetteville. As of now, there have been no public allegations that Tippett was instrumental in keeping the Fayetteville Loop (I-295) funding moving forward.
Myrick, who was mayor of Charlotte from 1987-1991, has been very outspoken on the construction/funding delays with I-485. We'll continue to hear from her while the Draft STIP is being finalized.
Saturday, December 01, 2007
Route: I-540, US 64, NC 39, US 264, I-795, US 117, US 13, I-95, NC 711, I-74/US 74, US 74, US 1, US 220, NC 211, NC 705, NC 24/27, US 15/501, US 1, I-440.
So is I-795 signed?
Well yes, it is. The signs were put up on Wednesday, November 28th. Interestingly, all the US 117 sign have been removed from the 795 freeway. At some interchanges, there are still US 117 shields. Obviously the overheads aren't updated to reflect the change. There is one hiccup. Where I-795 splits from US 264 to head south to Goldsboro, it is not marked at all. So if you stay East on US 264 expecting to be on I-795, you'll be like "Hey, where did 795 go?" I am sure this will be fixed once the guides and overheads are updated.
There are also END signs like below at both termini. We didn't notice any 'BEGIN' signs.
Also, Alternate banners are still up on US 117. However in some cases, the Alternate banners were never added so it won't be that big of a change on what is now once again US 117. The only question, where will 117 end now. Most likely US 301.
NC 711 ends at I-95 while multiplexed with NC 72 for about a quarter of a mile. Also, NC 711 is signed North/South when it clearly goes East/West. Makes no sense.
So it was off to the new six mile section of I-74 from Maxton to NC 710. And well...It's I-74 and US 74. We've seen Future I-74 and US 74 shielded at the same time...but never Interstate 74 and US 74 shields until now.
Right now, the new six miles of I-74/US 74 is posted at 55 mile an hour. It is primarily open for 'Local Traffic Only' at this point. We'll see what happens come vacation season though. 74 is a key route from Charlotte to the beaches.
Here's a look at the unopened I-74/US 74 East past the NC 710 interchange.
Exits are based on I-74 mileage and the milemarkers have I-74 shields only. Interesting if you are headed eastbound at the end of the former Maxton Bypass. You are forced back on the old two lane US 74. If you want to continue on the six miles of freeway to NC 710. You basically need to take a U-Turn at the end of the on-ramp to get back on the highway.
Speaking of that interchange. You got to love signs like these:
Surprisingly, Interstate 74 shields, milemarkers, and exit numbers continue beyond the newly opened highway to the end of the Laurinburg Bypass. We didn't think that the new signs would have been posted already. Signing plans call for the not quite to exact Interstate standards freeway to be signed as an Interstate. And obviously, they've already been done. I-74 shields are through out the Laurinburg/Maxton bypass and also on surface streets at the interchanges. Most of the exit gore signs read with I-74 exit numbers, as do most of the guides. A few guides need I-74 exit tabs and that's it.
And there is even an 'END' I-74 shield at the eastern end of the freeway.
And I-74 shields have been added onto overheads and guide signs at the beginning of the freeway as well.
From there, it was on to check out some construction progress on the I-73/74/US 220 Ellerbe Bypass. A couple of surprises are found here.
First, it appears that NC 73 will not be routed on the new freeway. It is most likely going to continue on what is now US 220 (which will become either US 220 Alternate or Business or both). And here's proof of why.
First, the exit numbers are based on US 220 mileage. However, there are a few clues. First, the guide sign only reads NC 73 (without any East/West). Second around the interchange there are new NC 73 shields located west of the interchange, meaning NC 73 would not go on the freeway.
Finally, shown below, there is not an NC 73 West shield on the guide signs used for shields on the new highway. This shot was taken from a distance at max zoom so it is a little bit sketchy.
There isn't an NC 73 shield on this guide. But also take note that it reads 'FUTURE' I-73 and 'FUTURE' I-74. This is interesting as most thought the highway would be INTERSTATE 73/74 at this point. The reason is that the freeway to the north that the new highway will connect to is already signed as INTERSTATE 73 INTERSTATE 74. So we'll see what happens.
As a whole, a worthwhile field research trip with a few surprises. It will be interesting to see what happens when the Ellerbe bypass opens if the currently signed I-74/74 to the North changes to Future. Or if Future 73/74 changes. Also, what exactly happens to NC 73. IS my guess that it won't go on the new freeway right? We shall see, the freeway is supposed to open next Spring.
If you made it this far, take some time and read Bob Malme's I-73/74 pages. It gives an accurate and in depth look at the progress of both Interstates in North Carolina.