As part of our Statewide Planning and Design On-Call Services contract, RS&H provided environmental, planning, and design services for the $300-million addition of express lanes to I-485. The project extends approximately 17 miles in south Charlotte from I-77 to US 74 and adds one express lane in each direction.
The I-485 corridor, a major access freeway for several large communities, passes through major employment centers and several major commercial centers. The primary objective of adding express lanes is to provide commuters a reliable and consistent travel option throughout the day, particularly during the morning and evening rush hours. The express lanes will implement congestion pricing, while providing a free option for local transit riders.
This project presented several challenges, including the need for additional construction along one of the busiest freeways in the state only a few years after a major construction is complete. The addition of the express lanes was designed in a way that will not hinder future implementation of other direct connectors and integration of the future regional express lanes network.
RS&H worked to build public and political support for toll lanes and ingress/egress access points, especially since this is the first toll project in this part of Mecklenburg County. Various informational materials were prepared for use in large format public meeting forums, as well as strategically targeted small group and elected officials’ meetings within the project corridor. Materials prepared by RS&H were used to educate and inform citizens and included a visualization video that utilizes 3D graphics (I-485 Express Lanes video), poster boards that visually depict level of service, and corridor maps that display numerous project elements in a clear, comprehensible manner.
Expansive coordination with multiple public and private entities was critical in order to develop a consistent message and approach, and to reach the appropriate audiences. To date, RS&H assisted the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) with facilitation of four large public meetings and approximately 20 small meetings with constituents and various stakeholders. In addition, RS&H worked with the North Carolina Turnpike Authority to promote project updates through social media, resulting in over 300,000 views and over 1,300 total comments.
RS&H’s extensive experience with project-specific issues and engaging the public through a variety of outreach methods allowed us to assist NCDOT with the delivery of a successful project.