Planners, residents discuss improving accessibility in Huntersville

HUNTERSVILLE – Transportation engineers and designers across the state have a vision to make the town more inviting and conducive for residents traveling on foot or by car.

Residents had the opportunity to speak June 5 about transportation concerns at a Downtown Huntersville Transportation System Plan Public Workshop.

Employees from Scantec, a planning and engineering firm, discussed the transportation needs for downtown in the coming years. 

They want locals to understand the issues of what is at stake for property owners, stakeholders and residents when it comes to transportation planning. 

The overarching goal for the town is to have a new and improved downtown by 2030. Scantec will consider all modes of transportation (bikes, cars, buses and pedestrians), analyze future transportation operations based on build-out land development and determine improvements needed to accommodate growth and development in the next 10-15 years.

Engineers want to build on ideas from the past, such as the 2006 Gilead Road U.S. 21 and the 2007 East Huntersville plans. 

“We want to come up with a plan that looks at how people come and go,” said Mike Rutkowski, associate at Stantec. “We need to find the right tools to make good decisions because this is the place to be.” 

Scott Curry, of Stantec, believes in planning for both street and land and how the two influence design and appearance for buildings and connectivity of streets.

Upon coming out of the economic recession, more shopping destinations and diversity of homes came to Huntersville. More people became interested in development projects.

“What hasn’t changed yet are walkable neighborhoods, a potential, Red Line commuter rail and a strong civic core,” Rutkowski said. “We really need to invest in downtown.”

Several Huntersville residents expressed they wanted more places to walk so they are not rushing across streets because of traffic. Many spots have missing sidewalks and poles blocking pathways. 

In a clicker survey, residents voted on what they felt was most important for the downtown area.

Main points of interest revolved around better connectivity to I-77 and an east/west connection, widening of major roadways (U.S. 21, N.C. 115 and Gilead Road) to improve fluidity, amenities (sidewalks and bike lanes) for pedestrians to walk and bike, additional ways to get in and out of lots and preservation of historic homes and buildings, some which are located at the corner of Gibson Park Road and Main Street.

Although many residents liked the idea of roundabouts and a commuter rail around downtown, some felt these implementations require huge land space and would not reduce traffic congestion or provide relief for enough people.

One resident asked planners to emphasize throughput, describing access to the BP and Food Lion on Exit 23 as a jigsaw puzzle. 

Huntersville resident Gina Barron said traffic congestion and destruction of historic sites are her biggest concerns.

“If they widen Main Street, a lot of historic buildings could be taken out,“ Barron said. 

Diane May, of Huntersville, said Main Street should be widened to help with traffic flow.

“The N.C. 115 traffic is unbelievable,” she said. “I don’t even leave my house at certain hours.”

Scantec and Huntersville transportation and planning members will consider all recommendations of residents, examine what needs to be done, develop costs and implement strategies to go about new projects. 

“We want to look at 15 years from now,” said Zac Gordon, principal planner of Huntersville. “Hundreds of people want to see more businesses and houses in downtown. We need options for everyone to make a vibrant downtown based on supply and demand.”