The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is in the process of planning for improvements and implementing a network of express lanes in southeastern Charlotte and Matthews.
The Charlotte region is growing. Its urban population has increased exponentially over the past 25 years, making it the 16th largest urban area in the nation. More people moving to the area mean more cars on the roadway. Independence Boulevard (U.S. 74) is a multilane, median-divided arterial route that serves as the main gateway to Uptown Charlotte from southeast Mecklenburg County and northwest Union County.
To accommodate the growth, NCDOT is undertaking a series of express lane projects on I-77, I-485, and U.S. 74 (Independence Boulevard). These express lane projects are intended to provide users with a network of reliable travel time options throughout the region, especially during peak travel hours, to help improve traffic capacity.
The U-2509A project includes improvements on routes parallel to U.S. 74 to help minimize congestion during construction on U.S. 74 on Independence Point Parkway, Northeast Parkway, Arequipa Drive, Krefeld Drive. The U-2509 B project includes upgrading U.S. 74 to an expressway with express lanes from west of Idlewild Road to I-485.
The purpose of these projects are to improve traffic mobility and provide reliable travel times along the Independence Boulevard corridor. The planned improvements on Independence Boulevard will give motorists the choice of paying a fee for a reliable trip time between I 277 in Charlotte and I-485 in Matthews.
What are Express Lanes?
Express lanes are reducing congestion and improving traffic flow on critical transportation corridors. They offer drivers a choice – pay a toll and ride on the express lanes for more reliable travel times or continue driving on the general purpose lanes for free.
The power is entirely in the hands of you, the motorist. You can each determine how valuable your time is and decide if the convenience and more reliable travel time is worth the cost of taking the express lanes.
Need for Project
Independence Boulevard is a multilane, median-divided, four- to six-lane roadway that serves as the main gateway to Uptown Charlotte from southeast Mecklenburg County and northwest Union County. Independence Boulevard does not provide adequate mobility, reliable travel times, and connectivity for residents, business patrons, and commuters in southeastern Charlotte and Matthews.
- Traffic estimates indicate that in the future, Independence Boulevard will not be able to carry projected increases in traffic volumes without substantial delay and congestion.
- Direct and indirect connections to the system of express lanes planned on Independence Boulevard to the northwest, I-485 to the south, and the Monroe Expressway to the southeast are needed.
Independence Boulevard will be widened to provide one general purpose lane in each direction, totaling three general purpose lanes, one express lane in each direction, and one auxiliary lane in each direction from west of Idlewild Road in Charlotte to I-485 in Matthews. Access along Independence Boulevard will shift. Interchanges or grade separated crossings at major intersecting roads, and all traffic signals on this section of Independence Boulevard will be removed. Additionally, one express lane will be constructed in each direction in the median of Independence Boulevard. The project also includes short connections that will link roads that run parallel to Independence Boulevard at several locations.
NCDOT has been working closely with local government agencies to discuss transportation needs along the Independence Boulevard corridor. This coordination helped to determine several project features, including the type of roadway; number of express lanes; and number and location of access points, grade separations, and interchanges. The EA will describe the alternatives studied, and the recommended alternative will be selected in coordination with the regulatory agencies in Spring 2020.
Access Control Options
Several options for separating the express lanes and the auxiliary lane from the general purpose lanes are currently being considered, including tubular markers/plastic delineators, solid line preventatives, and rumble strips.
U-2509A includes the completion of several parallel roads that are intended to increase connectivity to, from, and between adjacent communities. These roads will allow for the separation of through traffic from local traffic and shift access to the back of businesses. These parallel roads are:
- Krefeld Drive Extension (Krefeld Drive to Sardis Road North)
- Arequipa Drive/Northeast Parkway (Margaret Wallace Road to Sam Newell Road)
- Krefeld Drive/Independence Pointe Parkway (Crownpoint Executive Drive to Sam Newell Road)
- Northeast Parkway (Overcash Drive to Matthews-Mint Hill Road)
- Independence Pointe Parkway (Windsor Square Drive to Matthews Township Parkway)
- Independence Pointe Parkway (Matthews-Mint Hill Road to Campus Ridge Road)
Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodations
Extensive coordination with the City of Charlotte, Town of Matthews, and Mecklenburg County is taking place regarding bicycle and pedestrian accommodations. Some planned bicycle and pedestrian facilities will be incorporated into the preliminary designs with local stakeholder input. The accommodations that are included as part of the project will be analyzed in the EA.