U-5768: N.C. 49 Widening
U-5768: N.C. 49 Widening
The N.C. 49 Widening and Back Creek Church Road Realignment project is a joint project between the N.C. Department of Transportation and the City of Charlotte’s Department of Transportation. NCDOT is funding the N.C. 49 widening, while the city is paying for the relocation of Back Creek Church Road to form a new intersection at Mallard Creek Church Road.
The project would widen 1.2 miles of N.C. 49 (University City Boulevard) to six lanes between John Kirk Drive and I-485. It also would realign Back Creek Church Road onto new location to tie into the existing N.C. 49 and Mallard Creek Church Road intersection. The existing intersection of N.C. 49 and Back Creek Church Road would be closed, and a cul-de-sac would be constructed on Back Creek Church Road just south of the North Carolina Railroad/Norfolk-Southern tracks, where vehicle traffic backs up. The project would eliminate the railroad crossing on Back Creek Church Road and improve safety.
Purpose and Need:
The primary purposes of the proposed project are to reduce traffic congestion, improve traffic flow, and enhance traffic operations on N.C. 49. The project would improve the safety of drivers and pedestrians who use and cross N.C. 49 by using an innovative design called Reduced Conflict Intersections (explained in next section below). To accommodate the students and bicyclists, a 12-foot multiuse path is proposed to be constructed on both sides of N.C. 49.
Widening N.C. 49 and The Right Way to Turn Left
N.C. 49 would be widened to six lanes from its present four lanes, and a raised median would be constructed along the corridor in the project area. At some locations, the median would be extended through the intersections with traffic signals to redirect drivers from the side street to turn right onto N.C. 49. The median is part of a design known as a Reduced Conflict Intersection (RCI), because it reduces, by more than half, the number of potential locations where vehicles can collide. At other locations, the median would not be extended across the intersections to allow through-traffic to continue across N.C. 49; however, left turns would not be permitted. Left turns at these locations would be accommodated by continuing through the intersection, making a right turn onto a “quadrant roadway” (see explanation below), and making another right turn onto N.C. 49.
A Reduced Conflict Intersection improves the safety for drivers and pedestrians alike and allows drivers to get to their destinations quicker and more easily.
With an RCI, drivers from the side road simply look left, then turn right to easily enter the flow of traffic. If they want to go the other direction or cross the highway, they turn right, then pull into a lane to make a safe U-turn, which is usually no more than 1,000 feet away. Motorists on the main highway, however, may turn left at major intersections using a concrete median design known as a directional crossover.
NCDOT and the City of Charlotte recommend using RCI when widening N.C. 49 for several reasons:
- Reduces the risk of crashes, particularly the more serious angle, or T-bone, kind
- Improves traffic flow on the main route. By reducing the phasing of the traffic signals and redirecting drivers to turn right, the mainline traffic has more green time and, thus, drivers travel more quickly through the corridor
- Creates more places where pedestrians can safely cross the road;
- Enhances the roadway’s operational capacity by allowing more traffic volume without increased delays
- Allows for the city or NCDOT to adjust the speed that drivers will follow to progress through signalized intersections without having to stop.
Here are some statistics about a Reduced Conflict Intersection. The design has shown to have a:
- 46 percent reduction in crashes at unsignalized RCI’s, compared to conventional intersections.
(Source: N.C. State final report to NCDOT in 2010)
- 15 percent reduction in crashes at signalized RCI’s, compared to conventional intersections.
(Source: Federal Highway Administration report, November 2017)
- 20 percent travel time savings on a signalized RCI corridor, compared to conventional corridors with traffic lights.
(Source: N.C. State final report to NCDOT in 2010)
Click Here to view a video of the Reduced Conflict Intersection (RCI) on N.C. 49
East Mallard Creek Church Road/Realigned Back Creek Church Road/N.C. 49 Intersection
A modified intersection with quadrant roadways (see explanation below) would be constructed for the realigned Back Creek Church Road/East Mallard Creek Church Road/N.C. 49 intersection. The proposed design would provide an expanded four-way, signalized intersection. Through movements would be allowed on N.C. 49 and right turns from N.C. 49 would be allowed to East Mallard Creek Church Road and realigned Back Creek Church Road. Consistent with the RCI concept, left turns to and from N.C. 49, though, would not be allowed. Two quadrant roadways would be constructed in the northeast and southwest quadrants of the intersection to accommodate left turns from N.C. 49 and left turns from East Mallard Creek Church Road and realigned Back Creek Church Road.
A quadrant roadway is a short connecting road between two routes to accommodate turning movements that would normally be provided at the main intersection.
- The proposed quadrant roadway northeast of the N.C. 49 intersection with East Mallard Creek Church Road/realigned Back Creek Church Road would follow and improve a portion of Thomas Combs Drive, providing a connection between East Mallard Creek Church Road and southbound N.C. 49.
- The proposed quadrant roadway southwest of that intersection would follow and improve a portion of Old Concord Road, providing a connection from realigned Back Creek Church Road to northbound N.C. 49. Providing these connections along the two proposed quadrant roadways will reduce delay at the N.C. 49 intersection with East Mallard Creek Church Road and realigned Back Creek Church Road, thereby improving traffic flow.
Back Creek Church Road Realignment
Two alternatives for realigning Back Creek Church Road are being considered:
- Alternative 1 (Yellow Option, 1 mile of new alignment) would begin just north of Wyndham Pointe Drive, tying into the existing East Mallard Creek Church Road intersection with N.C. 49.
- Alternative 2 (Purple Option, 0.8 mile of new alignment) would begin just north of the bridge over Back Creek and would also tie into the existing East Mallard Creek Church Road intersection with N.C. 49.
Under both alternatives, realigned Back Creek Church Road would travel under the NCRR/NS tracks via the railroad bridge south of N.C. 49 constructed as part of NCDOT Project P-5208 (see additional information below).
Realigned Back Creek Church Road is a portion of CDOT’s planned “Eastern Circumferential Road ” (see additional information below).
Closure of Existing At-grade Rail Crossing on Existing Back Creek Church Road
Closing the existing Back Creek Church Road at-grade crossing with the NCRR/NS tracks near N.C. 49 is an important safety component of the project. NCDOT STIP Project P-5208 evaluated the closure of this crossing due to the high volume of rail and roadway traffic and the short distance between that crossing and N.C. 49. From 2000 to 2016, there were six crashes involving a vehicle and a train at this crossing. Project P-5208 was designed to provide additional capacity for freight and passenger rail traffic (approximately 80 trains by 2030) and to accommodate higher train speeds (79 mph top speed for passenger and 60 mph for freight). At the same time, roadway traffic on Back Creek Church Road is expected to increase to 20,000 vehicles, or more, per day by 2040. Removing the existing at-grade crossing will eliminate train and vehicle conflicts at this location, thereby improving safety.
Because of the limited road connections in the area, closing the existing crossing was not considered to be reasonable without a nearby connection to N.C. 49. Based on the studies performed for Project P-5208, that project included a new bridge to carry NCRR/NS over the planned Eastern Circumferential Road. The realignment of Back Creek Church Road proposed as part of this project will pass under the railroad bridge that was constructed by Project P-5208, thereby maintaining road network connectivity and enabling vehicular traffic to flow freely under the tracks.
This project will close existing Back Creek Church Road just south of the existing at-grade rail crossing. The removal of the at-grade crossing will eliminate the need for trains to blow their horns as they approach Back Creek Church Road.
City of Charlotte Eastern Circumferential (ECR) Alignment Study
The planned realignment of Back Creek Church Road was recommended by the City in 1989, when CDOT published the “Eastern Circumferential Alignment Study.”
The ECR is envisioned as a connection between the UNC-Charlotte/U.S. 29 North area and the U.S. 74 East (Independence Boulevard)/Sardis Road North intersection in Matthews to serve as a lower speed thoroughfare, offering an alternative north-south local connection to the I-485 corridor in east Mecklenburg County.
CRTPO 2045 MTP
Traffic capacity improvements to N.C. 49 from John Kirk Drive to I-485 are included in the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization’s (CRTPO’s) 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) as MTP ID E333.
The MTP also includes the planned Eastern Circumferential Road (ECR), a portion of which will be constructed as part of this project (ID E335) from N.C. 49 to Back Creek Church Road.
Two additional sections of the ECR are included in the MTP directly south of this project, identified as ID 3074 (Rosemallow Drive to Rocky River Road) and ID 3082 (Rocky River Road to Plaza Road Extension).
City of Charlotte Feasibility Study
In 2011, the City of Charlotte conducted a feasibility study to investigate a new connection to N.C. 49 from Back Creek Church Road as part of the planned ECR. That study evaluated four alternative concepts. All four concepts would provide a grade separated crossing of the NCRR/NS track to eliminate conflicts with vehicular traffic and trains and provide a connection to N.C. 49 at the East Mallard Creek Road Intersection. The City’s study compared the number of residential and business relocations, impacts to multi-family developments, potential right of way and construction costs, street and driveway closures, temporary track for railroad bridge construction, and ECR reconstruction length. The study recommended “Alternative 3A,” which proposed that the ECR be carried under NCRR/NS, with N.C. 49 lowered to provide at-grade intersection opposite East Mallard Creek Church Road. Those recommendations were carried forward during the project development studies for Project P-5208.
Eastern Circumferential Road
NCDOT STIP Project P-5208
Project P-5208 proposed the construction of 12.2 miles of track adjacent to the NCRR/NS mainline between Concord and Charlotte as part of the Southeast High Speed Rail (SEHSR) Project. NCDOT recommends closing at-grade crossings to enhance the overall safety of the SEHSR corridor where there are viable options to do so. Back Creek Church Road was identified as a high traffic volume roadway with a particularly dangerous railroad crossing due to high roadway traffic volumes and the short distance between the at-grade railroad crossing and the N.C. 49 signal. Given that Back Creek Church Road is a major through‑route, it was not considered prudent to close the existing Back Creek Church Road railroad crossing without a nearby connection to N.C. 49.
To achieve that connection to N.C. 49, two alternatives for providing a grade-separated railroad crossing on existing Back Creek Church Road were considered: (1) building a bridge over the railroad and N.C. 49 and (2) building a railroad bridge over Back Creek Church Road. Due to topographic features, access requirements, and potential impacts to numerous residential and business properties, neither of these alternatives was considered prudent, and both were eliminated from further study.
The recommendations from the 2011 City of Charlotte Feasibility Study for the planned ECR were also evaluated (see additional information above). The recommendations from that study (railroad bridge over the planned ECR just south of N.C. 49) were incorporated into the design for Project P-5208. Construction of Project P-5208 was completed in 2017 and included constructing the railroad bridge that will accommodate the construction of the planned ECR and the realignment of Back Creek Church Road proposed under the subject project.
A public meeting was held on April 23, 2019 in Charlotte, NC to obtain stakeholder and public input regarding the project's design.
Public Meeting Maps:
Final Environmental Document
This is a large document so it has been broken into sections of ease of viewing.
Project U-5768 is identified in the NCDOT’s State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) and is funded for $41.85 million. The widening of N.C. 49 is programmed to receive State Highway Trust Funds, while local funds (CDOT) will support the realignment of Back Creek Church Road.
Project Development & Design
* Estimated costs are subject to change. Based on NCDOT STIP.
Public Meeting 1
Combined State Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact
Right of Way Acquisition
* Future dates are preliminary and subject to change
PROJECT CONTACT INFORMATION
Kristina L. Solberg, PE
Senior Project Manager
Project Management Unit
1582 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1582
PROJECT CONTACT INFORMATION
Keith Bryant, PE
Senior Engineering Project Manager
Charlotte Department of Transportation
600 E. Fourth Street
Charlotte, NC 28202
RESOURCES FOR PROPERTY OWNERS
Although the N.C. Department of Transportation works to minimize the number of homes and businesses displaced by a road project, it is inevitable, in many cases, that a certain amount of private property is needed. The following information explains right of way acquisition and answers questions about the process.