5.0 Transportation Policy Overview
Development of new, and the expansion/maintenance of the Town’s existing transportation network is guided by a number of local, county, state and federal policies, ordinances and regulations.
Federal regulations mandate that any area wishing to receive Federal funds participate in a continuing, cooperative, and comprehensive (3C) planning process with all jurisdictions in the urbanized area. That process is implemented through Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO’s). In addition, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and the Clean Air Act of 1970 guide both the planning and implementation of transportation investments.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation maintains and constructs all public streets outside of municipalities and many of the major roadways within incorporated areas.
State laws (the “Equity Formula”) govern the geographic distribution of almost all Federal and State roadway funds. There is no ongoing State funding mechanism for transit projects. A major chasm between transportation needs and anticipated revenues is leading to a new strategic approach to selecting projects to move forward.
The NCDOT has traditionally been a highway organization focused on motorized vehicular needs. Beginning in 2009 with the adoption of a “Complete Streets” policy, NCDOT is identifying policies to incorporate multi-modal elements into their roadway projects. Transit and rail freight needs are acknowledged with the creation of the “Congestion Relief and 21st Century Intermodal Fund.” The “Mobility Fund” has been created to deal with projects of statewide significance.
The Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO) serves as the federally mandated 3C implementing body for our region. It is composed of members from each governing board in Mecklenburg County and most of Union County and will almost certainly expand into southern Iredell County in 2012. MUMPO adopts a Long Range Transportation Plan that includes a fiscally constrained project list that will allow the region to maintain conformity with its air quality plan. It approves alignments for future thoroughfares. The use of any Federal transportation funds must be approved by MUMPO. The Metropolitan Transit Commission is composed of members from each governing board in Mecklenburg County and is tasked with setting policy and funding priorities for the Charlotte Area Transit System. A countywide dedicated half cent sales tax is the primary source of revenue for this effort.
As a result of the Great Depression, in 1931 counties were stripped of their ability to build and maintain roads. In 2007, without any county requesting the legislation, the General Assembly returned this capability to them. Counties also provide significant transportation services to the disadvantaged populations through their social service functions.
The following excerpt from the “Huntersville Zoning Ordinance” provides the principal regulatory framework for development of the Town’s transportation network:
“Streets in Huntersville are to be inviting public space and integral components of community design. A hierarchical street network should have a rich variety of types, including bicycle, pedestrian, and transit routes. All streets should connect to help create a comprehensive network of public areas to allow free movement of automobiles, bicyclists and pedestrians. In order for this street network to be safe for motorists and pedestrians, all design elements must consistently be applied to calm automobile traffic.”(Article 5)
The essential components of the Ordinance relative to the local street system are summarized below:
- Inter-connectivity - Street connections (or stubs) are required between new development and adjoining property or developments.
- Pedestrian Scale - Be designed to accommodate the pedestrian.
- Sidewalks - Sidewalks are required on both sides of all new streets, with the exception of rural roads, lanes, alleys and along the undeveloped edge of neighborhood parkways.
- Street Trees - Trees are required on both sides of all new streets, with the exception of rural roads, lanes, alleys and along the undeveloped edge of neighborhood parkways.
- Public - All streets in new developments must be public (any street proposed to be “private” must be built to public street standards).
- Focal Point - Generally, all buildings are required to front on public streets.
In addition to these requirements, the Town is in the process of preparing “Street Design Guidelines” to provide guidance regarding the appropriate street cross-section(s) to be utilized in various development scenarios.
In 2007, the Town adopted policies and funding apportionment parameters to guide its investment in transportation infrastructure. Effective implementation of these policies and parameters will require continuous refinement, supported by the accurate collection and analysis of traffic and other relevant data.