How you could see the Independence Boulevard corridor become more bike- and pedestrian-friendly

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Plenty of cars but few bikers using the bike lanes along Statesville Road, Thursday, June 25, 2015. Charlotte only has 2 state-operated roads that underwent a road diet in the last 8 years or so to accomodate for bike lanes. West Morehead Street and Statesville Road. Under new legislation proposed by House Bill 44, the Senate wants to regulate how/when cities use road diets on state-operated roads, basically not allowing for the elimination of lanes to create bike lanes. Lucky for Charlotte, most of our road diets have been on city-operated roads.

The Independence Boulevard corridor may not seem like the ideal place to walk or bike now, but that could change in a few years.

The City of Charlotte is working on a plan to improve connectivity for pedestrians and bicyclists in the east Charlotte area from roughly Briar Creek Road to Sardis Road North. The project, called Independence Area Sidewalk and Bikeway Improvements, is in the planning stages and the city is seeking community input.

There’s an open house for the project 6-7:30 p.m. on Thursday (Jan. 25) at Independence Regional Branch Library (6000 Conference Drive).

This won’t be one unbroken greenway, like the 26-mile Cross Charlotte Trail stretching from Pineville to University City. Instead, the project will be made up of a combination of “sidewalk improvements, street improvements, bicycle sharrows (shared lane markings), wayfinding signage and connections to new and existing greenways/trails,” said project manager Sonji Mosley in an email.

It would also include an improved crossing of Independence on Eastway/Wendover Road and Briar Creek Road.

The $8 million project would be funded by transportation bonds as a piece of the city’s Community Investment Plan. Mosley said the planning stage should wrap up by late summer, at which point the city will set a timeline for completing the project.

“A project like this is going to be perfect for this part of town,” said Jack Miller, a MoRA board member who lives in the Stonehaven neighborhood and regularly commutes by bike to work Uptown. He added that he’d like to see the trail stretch all the way down to heavily-traveled McAlpine Creek Greenway.

“Being able to connect McAlpine Creek Greenway with all that developing retail along Monroe Road would be a great benefit.”

(Side note: I wish this existed when I rode my bike to work for a week.)

The project stems from a 2016 Advanced Planning Study, which proposed trails on both sides of Independence – then called Independence Trail North and South –  stretching roughly from Chantilly to MoRA. (The trail has since changed names to the slightly-less-catchy “North and South Pedestrian and Bicycle Boulevard – Independence Area.”)

The initial plan, which you can see on pages 6 and 7 of the Advanced Planning Study, proposed single routes that cut through the MoRA and Oakhurst neighborhoods to the south of Independence, and Sheffield Park and Eastway Park north of Independence, using mostly back roads and off-road paths, and avoiding high-traffic streets like Monroe Road.

After further studies, the city provided additional alignment options for each route, according to Mosley, including stretches of Monroe Road and Commonwealth Avenue.

Here’s a map of the proposed southern alignments:

 

And one of the northern alignments:

The goal is to pick one route on each side of the corridor. And that’s where you come in.

In addition to Thursday’s open house at the Independence Regional Library, there will be an online meeting at charlottefuture.com/indep. You can also subscribe for updates here or text “charmeck indep” to 468-311.

“The city is excited about the project and looks forward to continued public participation and support as the project advances,” Mosley said.

Images: Charlotte Observer Files,  City of Charlotte

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