Posted on July 31, 2012 at 5:55 AM
Tuesday, Jul 31 at 6:07 AM
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -Construction on south Charlotte’s Rea Road widening project has left some area homeowners disgruntled about the changes city officials say will improve safety and ease traffic.
The project will widen Rea Road from Pineville-Matthews Road to Colony Road, a stretch of about 1.5 miles, adding bike lanes, medians and sidewalks. The road will have one travel lane in each direction.`
The project also hopes to ease traffic congestion and eliminate sight distance problems for drivers turning in and out of subdivisions. A planned right turn lane at Pineville-Matthews Road will ease southbound traffic backups.
The project’s budget is $22.5 million from an $84.7 million bond referendum approved by voters in November 2008. It is one of five road projects approved that year. Seven more road projects were approved in a November 2010 referendum of $198.6 million.
The city historically holds a bond referendum every two years to pay for sidewalks, roads, affordable housing and neighborhood improvements, but it does not have a referendum scheduled for November. That means money for any new projects would have to be taken from existing ones.
Senior project manager Imad Fakhreddin said the city completed its right-of-way acquisition purchases in 2011, though some homeowners are disputing payment they say is inadequate.
“Some of them, they settled, others will go to condemnation, and we’re working through that,” Fakhreddin said.
He said that while the expansion will bring the road closer to some homes, the project as a whole will improve safety.
“No one has told me, ‘We don’t want this project,’ because it’s good for the area,” Fakhreddin said. “For some individuals, this is an issue that maybe there is an impact on the property they think is worth more than the city is willing to pay.”
Homeowner Medford Greenstreet, whose backyard borders Rea Road, said the city is tearing up all the work he has put into his yard.
“I think it’s a terrible thing to do,” he said. “I’m going to have a backyard that’s only 13 feet wide. They’re paying me what they think it’s worth, but it’s not what I think it’s worth by a long shot.”
Ronald Drobonick, whose house faces Rea Road, had to tear down his favorite crape myrtle trees, now in a heap by the road – as are other Rea Road trees the city tore down for construction weeks ago.
“We’ve been fighting it for five years, and this year, we finally lost the battle,” he said. “We had nice privacy, and now we’re totally exposed.”
The installation of a 16-foot median means Drobonick and others along it can no longer turn left when leaving home.
Homeowner Rasha Hanbali had to move her fence closer to her house when the city purchased some of her land. She said the project doesn’t make sense.
“They paid us, but we’re on the street now. I don’t like that people can be near the backyard,” she said.
“I think they could have invested the money in a better way.”
Despite the inconveniences, a few homeowners said the project is moving quickly and that the ultimate goal of beautification will be worth it.
Donna Peters said the project is long overdue.
“It needs to look nicer. In the long run, I think it’ll be pretty great,” she said. “Hopefully, it won’t take that long.”
Construction began July 9 and is expected to last 26 months.
The first public meeting about the project was held in 2003.
Construction from Pineville-Matthews Road to Carmel Estates Road will be completed by September next year, Fakhreddin said.
Construction from Carmel Estates Road to Colony Road will last until September 2014.