Charlotte: Retrofit Street Connectivity

In 2006, the city of Charlotte, NC, created a Street Connectivity program within its Department of Transportation (CDOT) to run the “inventory and implementation of needed street connections within and between neighborhoods as well as the construction of new connectors and local streets to provide improved access and connectivity for future development.” The program is funded primarily through federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) grant money. The CDOT Street Connectivity Program filters existing street connections that fail to meet its new subdivision-ordinance standards through an engineering analysis and prioritization process.

Potential street connections are analyzed through a geographic- information-systems (GIS) mapping tool for:

  •  Potential land use linkages: What street pairs would be connected within a distance of 1/3, 2/3, and 1 mile?
  • Mode impact: Would there be new access to transit or a greenway?
  • Road-network impact: Would the connection divert drivers away from congested intersections or roadway segments?
  • Route-directness impact: Which connection would make the biggest change in the ratio of route lengths between any two destinations as the crow flies versus the road network?

The CDOT reviews high-ranking potential street-connection candidates for construction feasibility to filter out any that contain fatal flaws or significant environmental or cost prohibitions. Projects that already have local community and political support are then prioritized. CDOT’s Street Connectivity program, however, has encountered significant public resistance to new street links. Obstacles to public approval include perceptions that street connections will increase traffic speeds or volumes, affect neighborhood crime rates, or lower property values.

Street-connection retrofit projects that win community support need to have political support, flexibility in the scope and timeline of the project to accommodate community concerns and requests, and clear, tangible benefits for neighborhoods both “upstream” and “downstream” of a proposed street link.

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.