Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Whatever do we do with Independence Boulevard?

Charlotte's "hell highway" is never referred to by that term at public meetings. But that's what it is. Tonight, the Metropolitan Transit Commission is chewing over some recommendations from a group of officials and citizens over what, really, needs to happen to the now-vintage plans for light rail down Independence.

(Here's UNCC Professor David Walters' recent essay on the same topic.)

A panel from the nonprofit Urban Land Institute last winter recommended rethinking the earlier idea to put a light rail line down the median of Indy Blvd.  The ULI panel pointed out the obvious: Putting a transit station in the middle of a huge multilane freeway would be about as pedestrian-unfriendly as you could be, and other cities have found you don't get much transit-oriented development at light rail stops along freeways. Turn the median into a high-occupancy-toll lane for buses and cars, and put the rail transit along Central Avenue (as in the planned streetcar) and along Monroe Road.

For the past six months a task force of transit, transportation and East Charlotte representatives has been meeting to see what, if any, of the ULI recommendations should be pursued. Tonight, the MTC heard its recommendations. In a nutshell: Do what the ULI said, only be more flexible in where, exactly, the rail transit along Monroe Road should go.

"The Metropolitan Transit Commission should rescind the special provision in the 2006 Transit System Plan that calls for preserving the ability to construct light rail transit or bus rapid transit in the center of Independence Boulevard," the task force says in a letter to Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who chairs the MTC.

MTC discussion was lively and enthusiastic – more so, really, than for the Red Line task force report earlier. Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor noted that "Union County [just southeast of Charlotte] seems to be the most interested I've ever seen them to be in the past 10 years." Getting tax-averse Union County interested in anything involving light rail transit would be a sea change in the local transit landscape.

And one tidbit: The state highway project to turn Indy Boulevard into a freeway has been nicknamed a "one mile per decade" project.


Pantograph Trolleypole said...

The have an opportunity to do something great but are going to ruin it when they turn it into a freeway. This road could still be livability friendly, but no one is thinking outside the box. It's going to turn out to be another eyesore as well as a conduit for cars that generates sprawl.

j said...

I don't know if Independence could be livability friendly, it would require a major redesign and that is simply more money than any politician is willing to spend.

Anonymous said...

I have always thought that rail along CSX to Matthews was a much better scenario than Independence. You have the added benefit of serving a rapidly improving downtown Matthews on the way to the end of the line. There are actually more destinations at the end of this line than the blue line. Downtown Matthews, furture Sportsplex/TOD with 10k seat stadium, CPCC, etc all within walking distance.

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