U.S. Highway 74 Bypass to Be Delayed Several More Years

Wed August 30, 2006 - Southeast Edition

MONROE, NC (AP) The start of construction on a long awaited U.S. Highway 74 bypass around Monroe is likely to be delayed several more years for additional studies following public complaints.

Barry Moose, the state engineer who oversees roads in the Charlotte area, and other state transportation officials are recommending a delay in the project, which had been scheduled to start next year.

The current proposed route of the bypass, which is intended to relieve congestion on the primary route from Charlotte to the coast, would run through some developed areas and near a habitat for the endangered Carolina Heelsplitter mussel.

Residents of the Hamilton Place subdivision complained in July about a bypass route that came straight through their homes.

“That’s the whole purpose of having a public hearing, to get all this out,” Moose said. A local transportation board is expected to make a decision on the delay next month.

Officials in Union County, which has grown explosively in recent years as suburban growth from Charlotte has spilled across its borders, believe building an interstate-quality bypass is key to luring industry to the county.

Even though the most controversial section of the bypass wouldn’t have been built for years, planners say now is the time to figure out the entire route. The state had been planning to build the bypass’s eastern section first, and figure out the western half later, and had set aside $80 million to start construction next year on the eastern section — from U.S. 601 to a spot between Wingate and Marshville.

The Federal Highway Administration, which is supplying most of the money for the bypass, opposed building it without a logical endpoint, which led to the proposal that would have taken the road through Hamilton Place.

“There were so many questions unanswered,” said Hamilton Place resident Derrick Miller. “They weren’t ready to make the decision.”

Officials are talking about whether to build the western section, known as the Monroe Connector, as a toll road.