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Showing posts from July, 2009

EPA: Gaston Parkway - Not a good idea

In reviewing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Garden Parkway, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has significant concerns on the environmental impact of the toll road. It also questions in how much consideration various alternative were given.

The DEIS was released in May.

The EPA's concerns are many:
"Very Significant" Impact to nearby waterways, and that mitigation for these impacts have not been thoroughly provided and explainedMore consideration to other transportation methods - including light railThe time savings for commuters range from 0-5 minutes for more than half the project. They fail to see a benefit to commuters in Gaston County and in the study area.Other socio-economic factors - from minority relocation and the impact on poor residents.The NCTA has received similar responses from the Southern Environmental Law Center, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commiss…

Has widening Interstate 485 in Southern Mecklenburg County been conveniently forgotten?

Remember how over the past decade how much noise residents near and commuters through Interstate 485 in Southern Mecklenburg County made in the bottleneck that they face on the four lane freeway every day?

Well, if those wanting to see the freeway widened to six lanes from I-77 to Johnston Road want the project done - they may have to scream a bit louder.

Not only has the project been continuously pushed back because of lack of funds at the NCDOT, MUMPO (Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization) , in their Draft 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan Ranking List, has dropped it significantly in their long range priorities.

The project which ranked 54th in the 2030 LRTP, now ranks 114th. The Monroe Bypass is listed first, followed by two stages of Independence Blvd. upgrades. Four parts of the Independence Blvd upgrade are listed in the top 10. The completion of Interstate 485 ranks slightly better at 93rd.

There are over 300 various transportation projects listed in the plan…

Triangle Expressway Updates...Full Speed Ahead

With all the funding from a variety of sources in place, the North Carolina Turnpike Authority yesterday officially awarded the construction contracts of the 18.8 mile Triangle Expressway. If, and that's a big if, all goes well we will see the entire highway open to traffic in 2012.

Wilson, NC based S.T. Wooten Corp will build the 3.4 miles of the Triangle Parkway at a cost of $137.5 million. This will build the toll road from NC 147 in RTP to NC 540 at Davis Drive. The project will also include a toll plaza on NC 540.

Two companies - Archer Western Contractors of Atlanta and Granite Construction of Watsonville, CA - combined to create Raleigh/Durham Roadbuilders to extend NC 540 from its current end 12.6 miles south to the NC 55 Bypass in Holly Springs. That contract is worth $446.5 million.

2.8 miles of currently open - and free - NC 540 from Davis Drive to NC 55 near Apex will be incorporated into the toll road.

Surveying is to begin this week - and an official ground breaking …

A few new Garden Parkway links

There were dueling demonstrations for and against the highway at a recent meeting of Gastonia City Council. The Council did not vote in favor or against the current plans by the NCTA. Read the Gaston Gazette Story.

I've provided a link to Communities Taking a Stand Against the Toll Road - a group against the highway. There is also a website made by those wanting to build the Garden Parkway. Maintained by the Gaston Chamber of Commerce - the site is called Build the Garden Parkway. There is actually a good deal of information and history of the project on this site.

MUMPO leader offers ways to fund both I-485 and Independence Blvd construction

Lee Myers, who chairs the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO), recently wrote a letter to North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue with suggestions on how the state can fund both the completion of Interstate 485 and continue the upgrading of Independence Blvd.

Myers wrote to Governor Perdue suggesting various ways to fund both projects and get them done as quickly as possible. The sources would include - current funds allocated for the projects, money from the second wave of funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, bond money, and moving funding from other projects within the state.

Lee asks the Governor to "think outside the box" in coming up with funding sources to complete both projects. This is the second letter that Myers has written to Governor Perdue and Secretary of Transportation Eugene Conti in regards to using stimulus funds for I-485.

In a letter dated, April 30, 2009, Myers wrote that though MUMPO voted to use stimulus fun…

Final(?) Greensboro Sign Trip Photos

I drove around Greensboro today (7/26) to take photos of the signs along I-40 and the Loop that have been updated since my last visit a month ago. The good news is that most, but not all, have been revised to reflect the new route number alignments. First of all, they've removed the Business I-85 and Business I-40 mile markers along the original I-40 and put back I-40 mileposts, such as this:
Also all the US 421 signage west of the Business 85 split has been removed from the roadside, though one still exists in an overhead sign:
They have also revised the exit numbers going west on I-40 for the Loop exits:
The Loop south sign has also been revised to drop the I-40 designation, though no effort has been made to include I-73 in the northbound Loop exit for now. Here's the southbound loop signage at the ramp:
There is room for a second control city, Asheboro is listed in signs at the I-85 interchange, why not here? The sign changes going east on I-40 approaching the Loop are more d…

Cape Fear Skyway likely to be cable stayed bridge - cost closer to $1.5 billion

The North Carolina Turnpike Authority recently released a few new details for the proposed Cape Fear Skyway.

First, the bridge will most likely be a cable-stayed bridge rising anywhere from 165-187 feet over the cape Fear River. If it is a cable-stayed bridge, the design will be very similar to the new Ravenel Bridge in Charleston, SC.

The NCTA also increased the proposed cost of the bridge from anywhere between $1.1 to 1.5 billion.

Currently, no specific construction or routing details are planned. A preferred route has not been finalized, and construction could begin in 2013. Early estimates for completion and opening to traffic is sometime in 2017.

Story Link:
Vision for billion-dollar Cape Fear Skyway clearer now ---Wilmington Star-News

Scott Kelby's Photowalks

On Saturday, July 18, 2009, a few contributing members of the Sure, Why Not? blog, including Adam Prince, C.C. Slater and Doug Kerr, participated in some of the various Scott Kelby's Second Annual Worldwide Photo Walks. For more information on the photo walks in general, feel free to visit http://worldwidephotowalk.com/. Listed below are links to the Flickr sets that Doug and Adam took photos for as a result of their participation in the Photowalks in New York State and North Carolina.


Adam Prince - Burlington, North Carolina
Adam Prince - Smithfield, North Carolina
C.C. Slater - Schenectady, New York
Doug Kerr - Schenectady, New York
Doug Kerr - SUNY Binghamton Nature Preserve; Vestal, New York

UPDATE: Friend of the blog - Brian Rawson-Ketchum also participated in the walk in Lansing, Michigan.

Some More Massachusetts Highway Photos

I spent the last couple weeks in Massachusetts where I documented the progress on several sign related projects.

First, the Route 3 (Pilgrims Highway) Re-signing Project. Basically only a few changes since I was there last January. First they have placed new signs for Exit 16, Route 18 northbound. These can't really be called sign replacements, since no signs have been here since at least the 1980s:
Here's the first sign, there is only 1 exit northbound, compared to two southbound.
This is the last ground-mounted sign northbound (to allow for future expansion of the roadway to 3 lanes). You can also see a mile-marker to the left of the sign. This was not a part of the current mile marker project (see below), but was put up a couple years ago on highways in this MassHighway Division (the .0 mile markers don't have route shields, or direction).

The only other new sign I noticed was the 1 mile sign for Exit 20, completing the new signage on MA 3 north for this exit (signage for …

Some good news - I-140 construction to start sooner than expected in Brunswick County

After posts about delays to one project, squabbles over another, I have some good transportation news to report.

Thanks to nearly $26 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, along with $100 million from other sources, a previously unfunded Interstate 140/US 17 Bypass construction project will get underway in 2010.

The 'A' Section of the Brunswick County segment of I-140/US 17 is the benefactor of the new funding. This segment will run from US 17 (near where NC 87 meets it in Bishop) to US 74/76 east of Malmo. This will be a design/build project.

The 'B' Section from US 74/76 to where the current freeway ends at US 421 is scheduled to see construction begin in 2012. Land acquisition for this segment is ongoing.

So it now appears that for a few years there will be a gap in I-140 and the US 17 Bypass from US 74/76 to US 421.

Story Link:
US 17 bypass's Brunswick leg to be started earlier than planned ---Wilmington Star-News

HT: Joe Babyak

Pressure's on...Interstate 485 timeline in the hands of MUMPO

The Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization last night heard from NCDOT officials on the impacts of their upcoming August decision on Charlotte transportation priorities.

NCDOT officials warned that if the completion of Interstate 485 is not the top priority of MUMPO - the project may not start until 2015.

Currently, MUMPO has the upgrade of 1.4 miles of Independence Blvd. to an expressway as their top construction priority. Construction of that project is set to begin in 2011.

In order to build the remaining miles of the I-485 Outer Loop sooner, funding from other projects would have to be moved into that project and the over $150 million improvements to Independence Blvd. (US 74) would make that happen.

In her 2008 campaign, Governor Beverly Perdue promised that construction of the missing I-485 link would begin in 2009 with completion in 2011 or 2012.

A blessing from MUMPO on I-485 would make it easier to move funds to that project.

MUMPO officials don't seem convinced …

Summer Vacation Road Trip - Day 2 - Charlottesville to Elizabeth, PA

The second leg of the trip home was from Charlottesville northwards to Elizabeth. I wanted to hike and visit Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia along with take a view of Seneca Rocks. I took a little detour to get back to the Casselman River Bridges on US 40 - but it started to pour down rain when I began taking pictures. Go figure.

If you'd like to see the entire roadtrip portion of the photo set, head here!

To start...and to prove I still take sign photos...

cutouts for US 33 and VA 42 in Harrisonburg - the light changed faster than I expected so I got a rather amateur shot of this.

Anyways, I started by following the old Seminole Trail north of Charlottesville to US 33 near Ruckersville. Mainly just to follow the old alignment - and to try and get photos of the old truss bridge over the North Fork of the Rivanna. Unfortunately, the bridge is being replaced and the road was closed...so I had to detour a little bit. I would really have liked to get photos of that bri…

What project is more important? Charlotte planning organization to debate ranking of three projects

Widening/Upgrading Independence Blvd. (US 74) to an ExpresswayBuilding the Monroe Bypass (US 74)Completing the Interstate 485 Outer LoopHow would you rank in importance and need of these three Charlotte Transportation Projects?

That's the current ranking of the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization, but that could change. They are meeting today to debate on shifting the priorities for the region's transportation needs.

And there's a little bit of political pressure too:

Governor Perdue has promised (during her election campaign) that construction on I-485 would begin this year, and it would be finished by 2013. But Transportation Officials admit that they don't have the funding to start now or even in the next few years.

To fulfill this promise, funding for other projects would have to be delayed in order to complete the highway. That could put projects like the widening and upgrade of Independence Blvd. way back on the "To Do List".

And in order…

Say what? A completed Garden Parkway could increase traffic on Interstate 85

I had to read this story twice more just to make sure I read this right.

Recent traffic projections by the state show I-85 having more traffic on it in 2030 with the Garden Parkway built than if it wasn't.

Here are the figures:

AADT (Annual Average Daily Traffic) in 2030:

I 85: US 321 to Gaston/Mecklenburg County Line -

With entire Garden Parkway Built - 137,600 vehicles
With Garden Parkway built to US 321 - 139,300 vehicles
With NONE of the Garden Parkway Built - 134,600 vehicles

Opponents of the Parkway see this new data as another piece of their argument in stopping the Parkway from being built.

Story Link:
'Garden Parkway' could actually increase traffic on I-85 --Gaston Gazette

Commentary:
This is definitely an interesting stat if you are against the highway. That along with the comparisons to the troubled Southern Connector in Greenville, SC start to make a persuasive argument - beyond typical NIMBY-ism - against the construction of this toll road.

A few things of note: First, t…

Summer Vacation Road Trip - Day 1 - Charlottesville, VA

Taking a break from the hard news stories.

Earlier this month, I headed home to Pennsylvania from here in Raleigh. Traditionally, I try to split the trip home by staying overnight somewhere along the way. This year, I stayed in Charlottesville, VA. And was able to tour Monticello and later walk around the campus of the University of Virginia.

Monticello is certainly worth a visit. I would recommend about a half day to spend there. I took a half day off work and was able to get to the grounds at 3:30. The park closes at 5 pm, but the ground remain open until 6. I walked around the grounds to just about 6.

Cost is $20 and includes the tour of Monticello and other tours of the grounds. The Monticello home tour is about an hour - and is extremely worth it. It is hard to put into words all of the unique features - and at that time well ahead of its time technologies. The tour guides are well versed, personable, and excellent. Of course, you can not take photos of the inside of th…