As Charlotte mulls how to retool its uptown freeway loop, city transportation planners have put 22 ideas on the table.
The planners, who held a public workshop last week and provided the list to PlanCharlotte.org on Tuesday, are envisioning ways to overhaul the 6.5 miles of Interstate 77 and I-277 that encircle uptown and studying which of those 22 ideas to nominate for a 2040 regional transportation plan.
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To learn more, visit the Charlotte Department of Transportation website here.
Maps showing the 22 ideas weren't posted as of Thursday morning, June 14, but CDOT says they will post them soon.
Click here for a larger image of the above map. Scroll to the end of the article for links to other maps.
The ideas, which are potential concepts and not formal proposals, are intended to relieve congestion, provide longer ramps, improve safety and keep drivers from having to quickly weave between lanes.
City staff and consultants next plan to consider feedback from last week’s meeting and evaluate which concepts or groups of concepts would provide the most long-lasting, cost-effective benefits, city transportation planner Norm Steinman said.
The Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization, which oversees the area’s long-range transportation plans, must adopt a 2040 plan by April 2014, he said.
Meanwhile, others are pondering a more radical idea: What if the loop didn’t exist at all?
A group of planners and residents gathered to consider that possibility Tuesday night during an event organized by the Civic By Design Forum at Levine Museum of the New South. The forum is a nonprofit group that aims to encourage civic debate on urban design issues.
Organizer Tom Low began by presenting two examples from other cities:
Low challenged participants to think boldly about how Charlotte might use the loop’s space if the spaghetti-like array of ramps and freeways was gone. “If it went away completely, what would you want to do here?” he asked.
After forming small groups, participants discussed ideas such as creating a greenway or boulevard along all or part of the loop’s path.
Low said he could envision blocking off such a corridor for auto or bicycle races. That type of grand thinking will be required, he said, if the notion of making Charlotte’s loop into a destination for people rather than a conduit for vehicles is to gain momentum.
“It really has to be a powerful vision,” Low said.
Steinman, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said he doubts such ideas would score highly in the system MUMPO uses to prioritize proposals.
Transportation funding is very competitive, he said in an interview Wednesday, and city officials want to nominate only projects likely to be ranked highly in MUMPO’s system, which evaluates proposed projects based on criteria including economic, social, environmental and safety impacts.
“If the project doesn’t do something about moving people – and yes, cars – it’s not going to do very well,” Steinman said.
Larger PDF images of concept maps available:
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