Kannapolis citizens speak, DOT listens
RALEIGH - After hearing concerns from citizens and re-evaluating the project budget, the N.C. Department of Transportation has decided not to proceed with the design and construction of the 24th Street grade separation project in Kannapolis at this time. Instead, the department will conduct an in-depth study to determine the most effective location for the project with the fewest effects on residents, business owners and the environment.
The project would have built a bridge carrying 24th Street over the railroad tracks to separate vehicle traffic from train traffic, with the goal of reducing the potential for crashes.
The city of Kannapolis shared many concerns with NCDOT about the project. The city felt 22nd Street offered a more direct east-west connection and better fit with the Long-Range Comprehensive Transportation Plan for the area. Local business owners expressed concern that the detour route during construction would prevent access to their establishments and negatively impact their businesses.
"We listened to those comments and changed our plans as a direct result of what we heard," said N.C. Board of Transportation member Ralph Womble. "Our goal is to work with the citizens to form a plan that everyone agrees on to improve safety and increase mobility."
To achieve that goal, NCDOT has opted to further study the location of the project in conjunction with the city and the Cabarrus-Rowan Metropolitan Planning Organization. Over the next two to three years, the department will conduct environmental work at several potential locations for the project, including 22nd and 24th streets. After determining which location has the fewest overall impacts and meets long-range transportation needs, NCDOT, the MPO and the city will work together through the department's prioritization process to secure funding for the new project. The department will ask for feedback from the public throughout the process.
NCDOT will revise its plans to include improvements to the existing 18th Street and 22nd Street rail crossings, which will remain open. The improvements will likely include adding a median to prevent drivers from going around the gate. NCDOT intends to move forward with the removal of the 29th Street crossing as originally planned, so crews can add a second track on the Main Street side of the existing track. The department will remove the pavement on East 29th Street between North Main Street and Kirk Avenue, which will prevent motorists from driving over the tracks.
These projects are all part of the Piedmont Improvement Project. In 2010, NCDOT was awarded more than $520 million through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to modernize the state's railroad network from Raleigh to Charlotte for freight and intercity passenger service. An additional $25 million in ARRA funds will cover the cost for the environmental/design groundwork for improvements from Raleigh to Richmond, Va. The Piedmont Improvement Program project follows the Raleigh to Charlotte corridor.