- Widening/Upgrading Independence Blvd. (US 74) to an Expressway
- Building the Monroe Bypass (US 74)
- Completing the Interstate 485 Outer Loop
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 to smooth the path in getting funding arranged - a green light by a shift of priorities by an organization like MUMPO - can help set the stage for it. If the local planning organization sees, the completion of I-485 as the top priority for the region, DOT officials can point to that to move money from other projects to the top of the list.
Though I would like Interstate 485 completed somewhat in my lifetime, I agree with the current MUMPO ranking and that improving and upgrading Independence Blvd. is and should remain the top choice.
Over the past 15 years, Independence Blvd. has been upgraded with interchanges at major intersections and better control of access to the various commercial/retail buildings and minor side streets. It has seen the elimination of numerous traffic lights allowing for quicker access to Uptown Charlotte from the eastern suburbs. So far the project has been completed from the Belk Freeway (I-277) to Albemarle Road (NC 27). The next phase of the project, which is staged to go all the way out to I-485, is to extend the expressway to Idlewild Road. This 1.4 mile extension is expected to begin in 2012. (You can see the plans for this segment here.)
The cost of this 1.4 mile upgrade is about $150 million - or just under 3/4ths the cost to finish I-485.
Story Link w/video:
Other projects to pay to fulfill Purdue's I-485 promise ---News14Carolina
Either way, its a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, what do you think?