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Nov 06

Question 12, 13, 14 & 15 : Traffic Flow & Congestion

Posted on November 6, 2017 at 5:57 PM by Waxhaw Communications

Question 12: Traffic and traffic congestion is the hot button in Waxhaw. Can you provide some background on how this all works?    

: Traffic and traffic congestion are complex challenges. Solving those challenges requires collaboration across the public and private sector.

Waxhaw has well over 60 miles of roadway within our Town limits, a mixture of private roads, state roads and Town roads. Waxhaw owns and is responsible for nearly 75% of the public roads. Waxhaw participates in the “State Street-Aid” or Powell Bill funding program for these roads. The State establishes funding and eligibility based upon a city or town’s road inventory hyperlink to -   Waxhaw’s allocation is roughly $320K annually. Everything above that amount is on the Town to fund requiring an accurate engineering assessment of what needs to be done.

The remaining 25% are state roads and fall under our regional transportation structure and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).

The “regional transportation structure” is federally mandated. Under federal law, any urbanized area greater than a population of 50,000 shall have what is called a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). For the greater Charlotte Area that is the Charlotte Regional Transportation Organization (CRTPO).

The CRTPO, in partnership with the federal, state, and local agencies, works collaboratively to address the transportation needs of the region. The CRTPO defines the policies, programs and projects to be implemented over the next 25 years in order to reduce congestion, improve safety, and support land use plans, Waxhaw is a member of the CRTPO.

Question 13: So what is Waxhaw’s game plan?

To establish a game plan, Waxhaw first had to get our house in order.
In 2015, Waxhaw’s engineering budget was minimal, virtually non-existent.  We had no engineer on staff. Our primary expenditure was bridge inspection. With our growth, our inventory of roads was ever changing as housing completed. In some cases, ownership of roads was unclear such as, Kensington and Waxhaw Parkway. Waxhaw had not conducted an analysis of the conditions of the roads nor their maintenance requirements. The Town had not enacted a 2009 recommendation for a traffic impact ordinance that would evaluate the impact, costs and cost assignment on our roads, prior to any new development.

On the funding side, we were not active participants in the State and Regional transportation funding organizations (CRTPO). No state funding had been committed to improving the state roads in our region on the State Thoroughfare Plan. Our state road projects that had been identified, like Highway 16, had not been updated with traffic data since prior to the recession, causing our projects to be in jeopardy of being dropped from improvement consideration.

To get our house in order, Waxhaw has: 
  • Invested in and hired engineers and established a Development Services Department;
  • Inventoried and completed an engineering assessment of our Town Roads to qualify for state maintenance funds and prioritize road maintenance;
  • Designed and implemented an annual road maintenance program.
  • Invested nearly $30,000 to provide updated traffic congestion data to the regional transportation structure for our state road projects;
  • Updated our transportation plans;
  • Adopted a Traffic Impact Ordinance that mandates an assessment of the impact development has on transportation; and
  • Adopted a street acceptance policy that established firm guidelines prior to accepting any roads with a new development;
This has resulted in:
  • Waxhaw-Marvin has been repaved.
  • Grants of over $2.5M have been allocated to Waxhaw to improve critical intersections
  • Approval of funding of over $80M in improvements to Highway 16 from Rea Road to the Waxhaw Parkway.
  • The investment of over $600K in immediate road improvements by the Town of Waxhaw.
Still, Waxhaw has much more to do. For a detailed review of our 2017/2018 road maintenance projects, I encourage you to view the following:

Question 14:
So that’s great, but how do we move this faster? It seems everything  from maintenance to Kensington, to Gray Byrum to Bonds Grove has  been talked about forever!

 This is a fair criticism. No question we have been overly optimistic in 2016 on how quickly some of these projects could be accomplished. We need to do a much better job of setting realistic expectations as we announce and plan for our major road transportation projects.

Waxhaw has chosen thorough planning over a quick fix. All of these projects are dependent upon the funds being available at the state or local level. Locally these would fall into our Capital Improvement Plan where they compete against all other Town projects.

Once funding is secured, all road projects go through several phases – environmental, design, engineering, right-of-way, and utilities. All of these are coordinated with the construction phase. Depending upon what is uncovered, it is not uncommon to have a five-six year project delivery window for most major road projects. 

For example, let’s look at Kensington Drive. When the original road was approved by the Town of Waxhaw in 2004, it was designed and engineered as a simple connection.  By 2012, the road had become the main east west corridor in Waxhaw. It was in need of repair, yet there was no clear ownership of the road. In 2015, with the road facing closure, the Town took ownership of the road and the problems. An immediate fix costing over $500K was needed for safety reasons. With that came environmental issues that were addressed simultaneously (storm water and drainage). Right of way easements with a half dozen owners has taken additional time to resolve. With the use of Kensington having dramatically changed, significant re-engineering has been required. And in this particular situation, all utilities need to be moved prior to construction.  And the entire project must be coordinated with NCDOT since our changes impact state intersections on each end.

Right now our plan is a continual work in progress as we define project scopes, cost estimates and timing. We are also reviewing financing options and the timing associated with each. Our goal is to have a plan this Spring that flows into the adopted budget for next year. 
  • Work on Kensington Drive is continuing. with our current plans 70% complete.
  • An agreement with NCDOT regarding improvements for the intersection of Gray Byrum Road and Highway 16 will come to the Board of Commissioners in November. Once approved the project is anticipated to take 24 months to complete.
Question 15: A major contributor to our congestion are the train delays? Is anything happening here?  

 There are 5 crossings within the Waxhaw Town limits, all of which contribute to the traffic congestion when a train passes through Waxhaw.

On October 24, 2017, the Board of Commissioners passed a "Resolution Supporting North Carolina Department of Transportation's Application for an Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grant"; this is a Federal grant that the state is seeking to construct a "grade separation" (bridge over the railroad) in Waxhaw. If awarded, the INFRA Grant, the state intends to improve railroad crossings in three Union County municipalities, including the Town of Waxhaw, which will be made more livable and safe through the construction of grade separations, direct connections and sidings that otherwise would not be funded or constructed for many years.