The regional study area boundary is geographically large, encompassing 19 counties. By using entire counties, it is possible to include all of the potentially affected urban areas as well as all of the important junctions along the Interstate and primary state highway systems in this portion of the state. This boundary, illustrated on the map below, represents the limits of the area that most influences travel along the US 64 and NC 49 corridors.
At the corridor-level, the study area extends from Raleigh to Statesville on US 64 and from Asheboro to Charlotte on NC 49. These corridors are highlighted in white on the map below and combined are nearly 200 miles long.
Study Conclusions for Phase I
The creation of a consensus-based vision for the US 64-NC 49 Corridor is an important planning step. A vision such as this provides a long-term, directional goal for future roadway improvements to US 64 and NC 49 within the study area and helps define the major aspects of a substantial financial investment. The vision also provides a means of building stakeholder buy in and commitment to major facility modifications and enhancements. To arrive at a solid, consensus-based vision, a process must be followed of identifying conceptual improvement alternatives, travel demand forecasting, evaluation of alternatives and ultimately establishing the Corridor Vision.
Conceptual Improvement Alternatives
Five conceptual improvement alternatives were formulated and subjected to an evaluation as part of the corridor study. The links below provides brief overviews of each alternative definition.
The conceptual improvement alternatives were evaluated using criteria based on mobility benefits, growth management benefits, economic benefits, environmental issues and cost effectiveness benefits. A simple rating scale of "good," "better," and "best" was developed from complex methodologies to convey the findings of the evaluation.
It is evident from the alternatives evaluation that the Freeway Alternative best satisfies the purposes and criteria of a Strategic Highway Corridor; however, it is also clear that immediate implementation of the Freeway Alternative is not financially feasible.
The study has created a document detailing the vision for the project.
Implementing the Vision
Therefore, it is the recommendation of the study that the Freeway Alternative serve as the Corridor Vision, with the achievement of the vision occurring through stages with achievement of the vision occurring through a program of staged improvements. These improvements focus on improving mobility throughout the corridor, especially in the urban areas, using the E+C Enhanced Alternative as the interim solution. The freeway vision serves solely to provide improvement direction with full achievement of the vision ultimately being a function of traffic operations and roadway safety needs. There is no set time table for achieving the vision.
The US 64-NC 49 Corridor Study has produced a series of valuable resources in the form of supporting documents and research papers, available from the links below.
A problem statement document was prepared to describe how the US 64-NC 49 Corridor fits into Strategic Highway Corridors initiative. Specific purposes and uses for the problem statement include the following:
The document addresses transportation needs in the corridor on a broad scale, considering the corridor's existing and future role in meeting the state's regional transportation needs.
Problem Statement (14.3 MB)
- Demonstrate how the corridor meets the criteria set forth in Strategic Highway Corridors initiative.
- Describe the need for improvements to the US 64-NC 49 Corridor as they relate to the corridor's function as a Strategic Highway Corridor.
- Serve as a preface and supporting documentation for recommended future improvements that enter NCDOT's project development process and NCDOT's NEPA/404 Merger Process.
- Promote opportunity for early resource agency and stakeholder involvement and input on concerns regarding future improvements in the corridor.
The problem statement is distinct from project-level purpose and need statements that are prepared as part of project development activities conducted in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, as amended. It is part of the transportation planning process and is not part of a NEPA document for a specific project. The problem statement helps establish a statewide and regional framework that can shape corridor-level recommendations for future projects and can influence individual projects' purpose and need statements and criteria for alternative evaluation. The information from this document and the results of the corridor study can be incorporated into planning and environmental documents and purpose and need statements associated with future project-level improvements that may be proposed by NCDOT or other entities.
An objective of the US 64-NC 49 Corridor Study was to gain an understanding of the travel patterns on US 64 and NC 49 as well as I-40 and I-85 in the study area. This was of particularly importantance because a major goal of this study is to examine the potential for improvements to the US 64 and NC 49 corridors to divert current and future-year traffic from I-40 and I-85. The determination of existing travel patterns and characteristics was conducted through the analysis of information obtained through a variety of travel surveys, which are briefly described below.
- I-40 & I-85 Video Origin-Destination Survey
- A video license plate survey of vehicles traveling at selected locations on I-40 and I-85 was conducted using high-specification video camcorders positioned on an overpass at each of the video stations. The point-to-point movements of vehicles between video stations were obtained by matching the license plates of vehicles passing the survey stations. The plate records of vehicles passing in a given direction at each station were matched against the plate records of vehicles passing all other stations in order to determine the volume of movement from one station to another. In addition, a record was kept of in-state and out-of-state license plates at each survey station. The survey was conducted for a twelve-hour period. The videotapes were destroyed following completion of the US 64-NC 49 Corridor Study.
- Travel Time Survey Report
- A series of travel time surveys were undertaken to record the average vehicle travel times and speeds for trips between Charlotte and Raleigh and Statesville and Charlotte utilizing I-40 and I-85, and US 64 and NC 49. The surveys were conducted over a period of six weekdays. Multiple trips were taken in each direction along each route during both peak and off-peak periods. The travel time surveys were conducted using a Global Positioning System (GPS) equipped vehicle.
- Postcard Origin-Destination Survey Report
- A postcard survey was conducted using license plate information collected from one of the video origin-destination survey locations. Postcard surveys were sent out to 32,953 motorists who were recorded at the video survey site location. Postcard recipients were asked to complete the survey and return the self-addressed, postage-paid reply card. 3,384 postcard surveys were returned. 2,934 surveys were entirely filled out and provided a complete and usable set of origin and destination location data. All returned surverys were destroyed following completion of the US 64-NC 49 Corridor Study.
- US 64 & NC 49 Origin-Destination Survey
- Three locations were selected for roadside surveys: two on US 64 and one on NC 49. The roadside survey was designed to capture the origin, destination, purpose, and frequency of each interviewed motorist's trip as well as the number of people in the vehicle and other routes typically used to make a similar trip. The North Carolina Department of Transportation conducted vehicle classification counts at each survey location in order to determine the sample size of the survey and to allow for expansion of the data. An objective of this study was to interview approximately 10% of the daily traffic at each survey location, which was achieved.
Travel Demand Forecasting
Large and complex highway planning exercises often use travel demand forecasting models to help analyze the need for alternative highway investments. For these and other measures of effectiveness, the sketch-planning forecasting tool supplied information to confirm the need for congestion and mobility relief in the corridor and to judge the relative merits of the alternatives studied in addressing these needs.
Travel Demand Forecasting
For Phase 1 of the US 64-NC 49 Corridor Study, the study team developed a transportation model as a forecasting tool that would be capable of producing reliable, order-of-magnitude estimates of both the potential increases in travel demand across the study area resulting from projected population and employment growth and the potential traffic diversion effects of providing additional highway capacity along the US 64-NC 49 Corridor.
Model Calibration Report
The model was constructed to capture changes in longer-distance (inter-urban) flows of autos and trucks that result from significant changes in highway capacity, household growth, and employment growth. In contrast, transportation models developed and used by Metropolitan Planning Organizations such as those in Metrolina, Triad, and Triangle areas, are designed to capture traffic demand within a metropolitan region. They are designed to capture the impact of small scale changes in travel times and costs on travelers' mode of travel, their choice of routes, and their choice of destination.
Land use was represented as aggregated areas corresponding to 2000 US Census tract geography in a 24-county core model area and as entire counties in the rest of the state. In all, there are 904 traffic analysis zones, of which 740 lie within the core model area. The highway network in the core area includes most roadway facilities up to and including the major collector functional classification. Outside of the 24-county area, the highway network includes only primary arterials such as the Interstate Highway System.
Observed traffic counts and a simulation of 2002 traffic were used to assess the utility, reliability, and validity of the model as a forecasting tool. Numerous corrections and adjustments to the highway network's configuration were made as a result of these comparisons. In addition, a utility program in the modeling software package (TransCAD) was used, which adjusts the number of trips between origins and destinations so as to produce the best possible traffic assignment match to the traffic counts.
Land Use Policy Guidelines
Defining the ideal relationship between land use and transportation has long been a conundrum for those involved in the planning of either. A number of studies have focused on the impacts of new roads on land use, because improvements to the transportation network increase access to land parcels, which often brings more opportunities for development and growth. Several such studies have concluded that, while new roads have little to do with the rate of growth in a region, they do shape our cities and towns by attracting new development and redevelopment (Salila, Handy, and Kockelman 2003). Few studies, however, have addressed the impacts of land use on new roads. That there is a significant impact is clear, and controlling that impact will require land use policies that guide development in a way that distributes local traffic more evenly throughout the local road network, maintains the long-term mobility of our highways, and maximizes mobility for through traffic.
Land Use Policy Guidelines
These guidelines cite specific examples along US 64 and NC 49.
Land Use Guidelines
Though striking a balance between competing land use and transportation objectives has multiple benefits, reducing congestion is the primary goal of those wrestling with this issue. Congestion on our roadways is one of the first signs that urban growth and development have outpaced the rate of improvements to the transportation network. While economists will point out that some amount of congestion is good for business, planners know-and economists agree-that too much congestion will have negative impacts that will outweigh the good. Thus, finding and maintaining that balance between development levels and traffic flow is important, especially in rapidly growing areas.
Controlling development, which involves adopting and implementing land use policies, is largely the responsibility of local government. With states investing millions of dollars in major transportation improvements every year, it is not surprising that each state has an interest in protecting its investments through land use policy, as well. However, the specific activities that can be undertaken at the state level to ensure such protection are few. As part of the US 64-NC 49 Corridor Study, the study team identified a broad range of land use policies that can inform the decisions of those who can make a difference in protecting the mobility of a new roadway, and identified the ways in which those policies can be translated into action at all levels of government.
In order to avoid development of properties within planned rights-of-way, local, regional, and state planning entities must find ways to protect key sections of planned corridors until construction is set to begin, without contravening the requirements of either National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) or the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). This can include finding ways to preserve the corridor without acquiring properties, such as exercising police power or reaching agreements with property owners. Alternatively, the planning entities can find ways to acquire key properties within the parameters of NEPA.
Corridor Preservation Report
Enivronmental Justice Report
Whether corridor preservation occurs through acquisition in accordance with NEPA requirements, or through methods that are not restricted by NEPA, it is key to avoiding the environmental and capital costs of delaying any control over the planned corridor until NEPA approvals are completed. While corridor preservation is not appropriate or necessary in all cases, it is crucial along corridors that are likely to experience significant development pressure in the near future. However, there may be instances in which a high level of controversy over a proposed improvement makes preservation efforts too contentious to be undertaken.
Preservation of the land needed for transportation improvements can only be achieved if local, regional, and state planning agencies work very closely together to identify threats to planned rights-of-way and find solutions to them. Agencies should aggressively pursue communication, coordination, and cooperation within each agency, among the agencies, and with property owners. State, regional, and local entities may foster coordination by incorporating tools such as memoranda of understanding into their planning processes, ensuring that all parties with interest in a corridor are united in their efforts to preserve it.