Here is a letter I wrote to the editor of the clt observer, but it was not published, so I figured I'd post it here
The NCDOT website says that there are only two policies being
considered on the topic of traffic between Charlotte and Gastonia. The
first option is leaving I-85 corridor as it is. The second studied
option is by building a new road connecting Gastonia to Charlotte's
loop highway (I485) with a projected cost of $600,000,000. The DOT
ignores a third option of building a commuter rail line that would
connect Gastonia to Charlotte.
The state could build a commuter rail line that would connect
Gastonia to Charlotte with stops in focal points along with way. A 21
mile track could be built along the I-85 corridor that would continue
to focus development along this road, but it would reduce the amount
of automobile traffic that flows through there every day. It would
also create a low-cost alternative to cars that people could use to
travel from Gastonia to Charlotte. A similar commuter rail project was
studied to be put in place in Pennsylvania near Philadelphia, and the
total cost of the 19 mile rail was estimated to be about $300 million.
This is about half the estimated cost of the new highway.
The problem with this new highway is that it will not really address
the transportation problem in the Charlotte-Gastonia area. While it
may reduce traffic going to I85 directly from Gastonia, if a person
traveling from Gastonia actually works in the city of Charlotte
itself, they must use the loop highway, I485 to travel on already
congested roads in other parts of the city to their workplace. Even
the people who don't work in downtown Charlotte, the other major
centers of employment around the city are all focused around I85 or
I77, not I485. Meaning any diversion of Gastonia traffic away from I85
will merely come back to I85 via the I485 loop, greatly increasing the
already growing congestion on the loop highway. The other problem
with this new toll road is that it will spur more suburban development
in undeveloped areas. This will increase the population of the area,
which will bring more cars and even more congestion on all the roads
in the area.
While not everyone would ride a new commuter rail, especially
initially, a study was taken in Huntersville that showed given a safe,
fast, convenient mass transit alternative, 68% of people who were
commuting to Charlotte would take the mass transit instead. 68% of
people traveling from Gastonia by way of mass transit would greatly
reduce the amount of traffic on the road.
The citizens of Gastonia and Charlotte should demand that the State
DOT at least commission a study to find the feasibility of a mass
transit project instead of just marching ahead with the construction
of a new toll road. If the state is willing to use future predictions
of toll revenues to justify construction of a new road that would
further encourage the sprawl and wasteful development that is plaguing
cities in the southeast, then why can't they use future prediction of
ticket revenues to justify construction of a new transit system that
would encourage high-density, smart development to alleviate many of
the problems the Charlotte area will be facing in the future.