STEELE CREEK — One clamored-for road improvement in Steele Creek has cleared another funding hurdle, while the other changed enough to stay on the list.
A public comment period for regional road improvements runs through July 21. Local road planners in June assigned points to requests, part of a back-and-forth with a N.C. Department of Transportation rankings system set in motion with legislative action last year.
“We’ve been getting a good number of emails from the Steele Creek community,” said Bob Cook with the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization.
In spring 2013, the Steele Creek Residents Association passed a resolution calling for N.C. 160 widening when about 200 residents attended its annual meeting. Existing traffic and more from the planned Charlotte Premium Outlets project opening later this monthcaused residents’ concern.
About the same number of residents attended the annual meeting in February, where Cook said resident input was largely responsible for recommendations for N.C. 160 widening from Shopton Road West to South Tryon, and from South Tryon to the South Carolina line. The projects are to be completed between 2016 and 2025.
A draft transportation improvement plan is expected by fall.
“That is where the real dollars are assigned to projects,” Cook told residents.
Ongoing expansion at RiverGate shopping center and the new outlet mall traffic were factored into the recommendation.
The latest points listing keeps two Steele Creek projects among the top 10 “regional impact” projects, which includes Mecklenburg and Union counties. The widening from Shopton Road West to South Tryon remains. But widening to the state line didn’t make the list.
Replacing the project is an intersection improvement at N.C. 160 and Hamilton Road within the same area. By focusing on the intersection versus the full widening, the project jumped to the highest ranked “regional impact” proposal.
The latest list could change through the July 21 comment period, or after as the transportation improvement plan draft comes later this year. The plan will be finalized by next summer. Projects making the cut will begin in 2016.
“It’ll be a dollars endeavor,” Cook said of the process. “It will be, and always is the case, where there are more projects, more needs, than there are dollars to fund them.”
Dave Wiggins with the Steele Creek Residents Association is urging residents to contact planners in support of the Steele Creek projects. He’s pleased that all or part of both projects from recent rankings are still on the table.
“We’d prefer the whole highway be widened, but it looks like we could get the intersection improvement or nothing south of South Tryon Street,” he said. “So this is a good thing.”
Wiggins is hopeful looking toward the community’s future.
“Increasing growth and congestion has made improving the highway a top priority for the community,” he said. “We hope these projects successfully survive through the evaluation process and are selected for funding within the next five years.”
For more information on the listings and to comment, visit crtpo.org and click “NCDOT Prioritization 3.0” listed under announcements.
John Marks • 803-831-8166