The Union County town of Indian Trail has temporarily withheld its $1 million annual contribution to a major state road project that’s intended to ease congestion in three Charlotte-area towns.
Indian Trail council members say they’ve seen no signs of work on the $118 million plan to widen East John Street and Old Monroe Road in the towns of Matthews, Stallings and Indian Trail. At a recent council meeting, they wondered how taxpayer dollars they’ve contributed to the 6.5-mile project are being spent.
“The citizens of Indian Trail have waited long enough for this road,” Mayor pro tem Marcus McIntyre said at the July 13 town council meeting, according to a recording of the meeting on the town website.
“We’d like to see it get built, but just speaking for myself, I’m not comfortable giving $1 million again when there has not been much movement,” McIntyre said.
“We paid $1 million last year, COVID hit and everything went down south,” he said..
The N.C. Department of Transportation is ”moving forward” on the project, spokeswoman Jennifer Thompson told The Charlotte Observer on Friday.
Right-of-way acquisition was authorized in May, “and the firm assigned to the project has been contacting property owners along the corridor,” Thompson said in an email.
“While that isn’t visible work to the public, this is the first step in the process,” she said.
The Indian Trail council was set to make its second annual $1 million contribution to the project on July 13 but held off cutting the check. The town intends to give five annual $1 million payments to the project, according to McIntyre.
Council members said that before they send the second payment to the state, they want someone from the state DOT to update them on what’s happening with the project.
McIntyre said he was trying to arrange for a DOT engineer to appear at the next regular council meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 27, at Town Hall, 315 Matthews-Indian Trail Road..
According to the project website, state and federal officials approved an environmental assessment for the widening in 2016 and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact in 2018.
Acquiring right-of-way will take up to two years, Thompson said Friday. “Another 12–18 months would be anticipated for utility relocation, with construction starting in 2024,” she said.
“Our staff has been in touch with town officials throughout this process, and we will continue to provide as much information as possible as we work to deliver this important project,” Thompson wrote in the email..
The council on July 13 unanimously approved a budget amendment for the latest $1 million payment to the state, but not to send the payment.
‘Check’s in the mail’
The town is paying the state through a bond approved by voters in 2011, McIntyre said.
“It’s 2021 – 10 years now,” he said at the July 13 meeting, adding that the bond will expire soon.
Town Manager Mike McLaurin told the council that he didn’t expect repercussions on the town if council delayed sending the check to the state.
“I don’t think two weeks will kill the process, but at the same time, we don’t want to delay it too long,” he said.
“Tell them the check’s in the mail, as they’ve told us numerous times,” Mayor Michael Alvarez half-joked at the July 13 meeting, according to the recording..