MOORESVILLE – At the March 19 town board meeting, several people in attendance voiced concerns and asked commissioners to extend the public comment period about a Traffic Separation Study Report released by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT).
The Traffic Separation Study (TSS) evaluated 27 at-grade highway and railroad crossings along the portion of the Norfolk Southern Railway “O” Line that cuts through Mooresville between Bridges Farm Road and Mazeppa Road. The Mooresville TSS evaluated the 23 public and four private at-grade Norfolk Southern railroad crossings within or near the corporate limits of the town.
The study was conducted by the NCDOT Rail Division in conjunction with the Town of Mooresville and Norfolk Southern. The report primarily studied the rail corridor of N.C. 115 in Mooresville. The study indicated that N.C. 115 “is a heavily traveled north-south highway corridor between Charlotte and North Wilkesboro.” The traffic volume, Mooresville Engineer Jon Young said, was a reason to look into the safety of the crossings.
“This report is primarily about crossings and how safe crossings are,” Young said at the March 19 meeting. “This study has been going on for about a year and a half now. The end goal is about keeping people safe.”
NCDOT Project Engineer Nancy Horne said this was a chance for the town to assess the current climate of the existing crossings as well as give the town the opportunity to allow for new crossings.
“Moving forward with the study, there will be certain closures due to the crossing improvements,” she said.
Near term recommendations, which means they will be completed within the next three years, may include installation of flashing lights and gates, installation of concrete or rubber crossing materials, crossing closures, median barrier installations, pavement markings for roadway approach modifications and crossing realignments.
The Mooresville TSS evaluated potential grade crossing closures and other improvements to support the opening of two new public grade crossings on Timber Road and between Langtree Road and Bridges Farm Road.
According to the report, a new grade crossing will be needed at the south of Mooresville where the proposed East-West Connector crosses the railroad tracks south of Langtree Road. The proposed extension of Timber Road west to U.S. 21 will require a new grade crossing near the intersection of Timber Road and N.C. 115.
However, residents said they felt blindsided because the full report was not online and available before the meeting. The last time the public was informed about an update of the study was some six months ago, said Angela Raydal, a Davidson Pointe resident. She said because the study was not offered to the public until March 19, she requested commissioners extend public comment for residents to get a “full look” on the study.
“I ask that...you keep public comment open,” Raydal said. “I would like to ask for us, the public, to have a chance to get a copy of the traffic separation study.”
The study showed that Bridges Farm Road carries nearly 1,200 vehicles per day at the crossing. The area surrounding Bridges Farm Road on both sides of N.C. 115 will be developed, particularly in anticipation of the East-West Connector, according to the report. The 1,000 acres of the East-West Connector road is proposed to link N.C, 3 with Langtree Road in the Mount Mourne area.
Davidson Pointe resident Arielle Emmett said her concern has always been the question of access and not just automobile access from communities around Bridges Farm and Lake Norman.
“I'd like to see the train revived for passenger rail with the infrastructure to support it, so that commuters have an alternative to get to Charlotte other than using their cars,” she wrote in an email. “A modern hydrogen-fuel cell powered train would be ideal. The railroad crossings obviously are inadequate, and would be more so with a regular commuter rail unless the state suddenly decided to join the modern world and create the infrastructure to support the railroad and neighborhoods in key places – either by raising the tracks or building bridges or tunnels to allow perpendicular traffic to go through. If not, Norfolk Southern should settle its issues with NCRR (North Carolina Railroad) and then either give up the track – a true commuter track up and down (Interstate) 77 would have been the best option – or rip it up and let developers widen the roads.”
Commission Lisa Qualls agreed with residents, saying it would be beneficial both for the town and residents who would be affected by it to extend the public comment portion of the study.
Although public comment is only held at the first meeting of each month, Mayor Pro-Tem Thurman Houston said the board agreed to extend public comment to the April 16 meeting.
For more information about the study, go to www.ci.mooresville.nc.us and search “Traffic Separation Study Report."