Town of Matthews
E. John Street Widening Project
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is currently developing plans to widen East John Street to alleviate traffic congestion. The project will widen 6.5 miles of East John Street to a four lane road from Matthews to Indian Trail.
 
The Town of Matthews is opposed to the current design concept and has been working with the NCDOT to improve the design and mitigate adverse effects on citizens and on the character of the town. The Town Board of Commissioners along with Mayor Jim Taylor recently sent a resolution to the NCDOT regarding design standards.  

While traffic congestion is a major concern in the community, it is a top priority for the Mayor and Board of Commissioners to preserve the small town character of downtown Matthews. East John Street runs through the heart of the historic downtown, and if not properly designed the road project could create a major divide between the downtown core and Stumptown Park, Matthews Community Center, McDowell Arts Center and Matthews Elementary School.

The resolution expresses great concern about the safety of all pedestrians and cyclists, and states that all options should be considered to save homes along East John Street.

The NCDOT has a preliminary timeline to begin construction in 2021. More information about the project can be found on the NCDOT website:  https://www.ncdot.gov/projects/EastJohnOldMonroe/

In April, the Town of Matthews received a response letter from NCDOT stating in part: "We believe that we can provide a design satisfying purpose and need, meeting operational expectations, and accommodating pedestrian safety and mobility by partnering with the Town to find the best fit solution with context sensitivity." NCDOT agreed to meet with Town leaders to discuss concerns with the current design concept. 

April 24, 2017: Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor wrote an opinion piece about this issue in The Matthews Mint Hill Weekly: Working Together on Long-Term Traffic Solutions in Matthews

This is an ongoing effort and this page will continue to be updated as more information becomes available. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is a Superstreet?
According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), a Superstreet is the term used to describe a non-traditional intersection in which left turns are prohibited, all side-street traffic must turn right and then access a U-turn to proceed in their desired direction. NCDOT announced plans to widen East John Street which runs through the heart of downtown Matthews. The current design plan would widen a 6.5 mile portion of East John Street and Old Monroe Road to four lanes with a median using the Superstreet concept. The Town of Matthews is opposed to the Superstreet concept.

Is the town pursuing alternatives to the Superstreet?
Town staff and elected officials have been working with the NCDOT on design elements for the E. John Street project that will help lessen the impact on the community. We have communicated our desire to: preserve the small town character of Matthews, ensure the safety of all pedestrians and cyclists, eliminate or minimize the size of pavement for U-turns, keep trucks out of downtown, and explore all options to save homes along East John Street. We want certain full-movement signalized intersections (such as Trade and John Street now) that allow left turns, and we want aesthetically pleasing streetscapes that help reduce speeding.

Why isn’t the Town of Matthews doing more to prevent this road project?
East John Street is a state road maintained by NCDOT. NCDOT has expressed an interest in working with the Town of Matthews to reach the best possible outcome. The Town sent a resolution to NCDOT expressing our concerns with their current design concept.

Why can’t traffic be diverted to Independence Blvd. and I-485?
The widening of East John Street is just one part of a plan to manage traffic problems in our area. Several other transportation projects are in the works, including the extension of McKee Road, widening of Independence Boulevard, widening of NC-51, completion of Independence Pointe Parkway and Northeast Parkway, addition of the Weddington Road/I-485 interchange, and eventually the extension of the Lynx Silver Line to Matthews.

How many lanes will the road be? How big will the median be?
NCDOT’s plan includes four vehicle lanes. We don’t yet know what the size of the median will be. This is part of ongoing discussions the Town is having with the NCDOT.

When will construction begin?
NCDOT currently projects construction to begin in 2021.

Will residents of East John Street lose their homes?
NCDOT’s current plan does include taking some homes along East John Street. The exact impact remains unknown at this time. In a resolution sent to NCDOT by the Town of Matthews, it was stated that: “All options should be considered to save houses along the roadway, including but not limited to the modification of the roadway or moving the residences.”

NCDOT’s final design of the road improvements will determine whether houses will be taken and which houses will be impacted. North Carolina state law requires that owners be compensated the just value of any land or structures that are acquired as part of a roadway improvement project. Any agreements of this type will be between NCDOT and property owners.

Won’t these road improvements just increase traffic on East John Street? 
You may have heard a statement along the lines of, “If you build it, they will come – so don’t build it” as a solution to concerns with the East John Street widening project. However, traffic congestion is already a major concern throughout this region – not just Matthews – and it is only expected to worsen as the population in the area continues to grow exponentially.

According to Livable Meck, conservative projections show Mecklenburg County’s population doubling to over two million residents by 2050. That’s about twice as many cars on all major roads compared to current rates. Neighboring Union County is also one of the fastest growing counties in North Carolina (currently ranked #7) and that growth will add significantly more cars to the road. 

There are a number of routes to take to reach uptown Charlotte from outlying areas and East John Street/Old Monroe Road has been one of these arterial roads for decades. Approximately 22,000 motorists currently travel East John Street daily and that number will continue to increase as the population in the region grows. NCDOT has identified the need to improve East John Street to help address the increased growth in the region. The project is not expected to fix congestion, rather it is meant to ease congestion and better accommodate the increased number of motorists that are anticipated in future years.

The Town of Matthews supports the widening of East John Street to two lanes in each direction as a means to better accommodate motorists and is working with NCDOT to reach an agreement on the specific road design elements that will be most appropriate for the downtown Matthews area.   

Why can’t a “road diet” be implemented (similar to what has been done on
 East Boulevard)?
A “road diet” is the term used to describe converting a four lane road to two vehicle lanes, incorporating bicycle lanes and intermittent center turn lanes with landscaped islands. East Boulevard, for example, went from a four lane road to a two lane road during a major transportation project completed in 2011. Other factors that made East Boulevard a good candidate for a road diet is the total number of motorists traveling the road per day (less than 20,000) and the amount of traffic on the road at any given time is more consistent throughout the day.

East John Street is currently two lanes, meaning a road diet is not an option that can be considered. Adding bike lanes, medians, etc. to East John Street to give it the same features of East Boulevard is also not an option for two reasons: 1) the number of motorists traveling East John Street already exceeds the number recommended for a roadway with features like East Boulevard to be effective, and 2) traffic on East John Street is peak driven, meaning how many cars are on the road varies greatly depending on the time of day (i.e. during morning and evening commutes it is extremely heavy, while it is less traveled at other times). Implementing the same features of East Boulevard on East John Street would not resolve current congestion complaints.

Have reversible lanes been considered?
Yes. However, reversible lanes create a number of safety concerns, including an increase in the number of potential traffic conflicts because they often confuse drivers or are used incorrectly. Vertical barriers, gates, and frequent overhead signage can help minimize these traffic conflicts but they are unsightly and costly to maintain. Overall, reversible lanes are most successful in corridors with limited access points (i.e. few driveways and side roads). When combined, these factors prevent reversible lanes from being a good option for East John Street.

The location of East John Street further prevents reversible lanes from being a viable option. During commute times, drivers are heading through this area in multiple directions – some are heading east through downtown Matthews to get to I-485, while others are heading west to take Old Monroe Road toward uptown Charlotte. This creates overall congestion instead of congestion in one direction, making reversible travel lanes unfeasible as a solution to ease traffic flow.

NCDOT and the Town of Matthews agree that a four lane road is the best option to improve East John Street. Other design elements and safety features of the road continue to be negotiated between NCDOT and the Town of Matthews to provide the most appropriate final solution for the downtown Matthews area.

Does the Town of Matthews support making East John a Complete Street?
Yes. A Complete Street is a designed roadway that allows for the safe use of the road by all users – cars, pedestrians, bicyclists and public transit riders. The design plan for East John Street includes these features, including a multi-use path for pedestrians and 
cyclists. 



     
     
     
     
    Town of Matthews | 232 Matthews Station Street Matthews, NC 28105  |  Phone: 704-847-4411  |  Fax: 704-845-1964
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