Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Legal or not, Monroe Bypass not a good move

The Observer's editorial for Wednesday:

A federal judge ruled that the N.C. Department of Transportation can build the $800 million Monroe bypass. That doesn’t mean it’s a smart thing to do.

In fact, it says so right there in U.S. District Judge James Dever III’s opinion. Dever had to decide whether N.C. DOT had followed all the rules in assessing the environmental impact of building the 20-mile road through Mecklenburg and Union counties. Dever concluded that DOT did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act.

But as Dever pointed out, “NEPA merely prohibits uninformed – rather than unwise – agency action.” In other words, the law makes DOT jump through hoops, but doesn’t require that the road be a wise thing to build.

It’s not. Building a bypass to bypass a bypass will lead to more congestion, not less. Monroe and Union County allowed U.S. 74 to be gummed up with strip shopping malls and other sprawl. So the road is not only ugly but congested. There’s every reason to think the new road – with interchanges every three miles or so – will suffer the same fate. The only reason it wouldn’t is if the toll the state charges scares drivers away. But then it won’t serve its purpose of relieving congestion on 74.

The DOT mismanaged the process, leading to the legal challenge from environmental groups. The N.C. Turnpike Authority was required to conduct a “build vs. no-build” study, comparing the impact of building the road with that of not building it. But the authority used data with the highway in place in its “no-build” projections. The state defended that, and Dever approved. But the whole episode raised questions about how interested the state was in doing a thorough environmental analysis.

The Charlotte region has pressing transportation problems, and they’ll only get worse as the region grows over the next couple of decades. But effective solutions will require smarter approaches than dumping $800 million laying asphalt around Monroe. It will demand better land-use decisions by local governments, more regional collaboration and a more holistic approach that includes both pavement and transit.


sanitizer said...

When it becomes congested, simply build a new road on the north side of 74. It spurs economic development as the old business dry up and new shinier businesses replace them on the new interchanges. .

Bates said...

Worth every penny to bypass Monroe. Can't wait to cut a half hour off my beach trip time from Charlotte.

PMG - Patrick Marketing Group said...

I'm shocked - what a biased article. Sure 74 is congested, but to state Monroe and Union County allowed the 'sprawl' to occur... you mean like along all the OTHER miles of 74? Don't blame just Union County.
Second, yes, the bypass MAY become overbuilt and congested - but that's an issue of quality land planning (like what CharMeck now tries to do around 485 interchanges). That has little to do with the NCDOT decision to build the bypass. The NCDOT's mission is to safely move traffic. It's the County or Municipality's responsibility to control.
Finally, to criticize the ruling based on the fact it's a 'bad' decision. Really? The judge has to rule on the LAW. He can't randomly decide he doesn't like the end result and stop it. He only said the ncdot and environmental study met the rule of the law. Don't like it? Get your elected officals to change the Rules, not criticize the judge because you disagree.

Wiley Coyote said...

It’s not. Building a bypass to bypass a bypass will lead to more congestion, not less.

The real problem here is NCDOT.

These are the same inept engineers that built the outdated south leg of 485 before the first car ever drove on it.

The same inept group that built the massive 485/85 South junction that goes from 3 lanes to 1 within a hundred yards over a small bridge and then you have to merge onto 85 with tarctor trailers merging into the right lane to enter the weigh station 1 miles down the road.

The same NCDOT that will not allow another entrance into the Wal Mart on Brookshire because of the road desigation as a thoroughfare.

If they can make it impossible to put another entrance into the Wal Mart, they can certainly forbid ANY other interchanges on the bypass.

If they don't want it around Monroe, then PLEASE put the damn thing around SHELBY! (Hellby as I call it)

Skippy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Skippy said...

DOT - Government. And guess who is going to take over health care pretty soon. So why worry about roads?

When is the last time this paper endorsed any road building? Social engieered smart growth and choo choos are this papers utopia.

Ghoul said...

Skippy, the last time the Observer editorial board endorsed road building was their super hyping of Obama's "Shovel Ready Projects." I'm sure they spent weeks going over every single mile of those road project to make sure they fit their criteria of ecologically, and economically sound projects before they endorsed all of them with their big, wet, sloppy kisses on Obama's rear.