9 Investigates

9 investigates: Pedestrian dangers along Independence Boulevard

CHARLOTTE, NC — A Channel 9 investigation reveals a serious danger along East Independence Boulevard in East Charlotte and it’s getting the attention of city leaders.

After months of monitoring the area from Sharon Amity to WT Harris, Chanel 9 cameras caught dozens of people darting across the 10-lane road in front of traffic.

People ran, walked, jumped over the tall median wall, and one even road a hoverboard in traffic going faster than 60 mph.

“Run for it. Then I wait in the middle,” said Kia Dotton, who regularly walks in the area.

NCDOT recently finished a major, multi-year construction project on that section of Independence. It was widened and stop lights were removed. That led to an increase in vehicle speed, and fewer safe places for pedestrians to cross.

On the 2.5 mile stretch of road Channel 9 focused on, there are three overpasses and one crosswalk, all separated by about a mile.

Those are the only safe places to cross, but walkers complain all the crossings are out of their way.

“I would have to walk maybe about half a mile or so to get to the light where there is a safe crossing,” said Dotton.

“It has become, really a barrier for walkability,” said Meg Fencil, of Sustain Charlotte. Her organization has been pushing for safer pedestrian crossing throughout the city.

The group has been more vocal after 2017 was so deadly. A record 27 pedestrians were killed in Charlotte.

“We have to start designing our streets to account for human behavior and not just for the needs of people in cars,” said Fencil.

Channel 9 asked NCDOT about the lack of crosswalks. They pointed out that the overpasses do have sidewalks. And, they sent a statement:

“As Independence Boulevard is being converted to a freeway, it isn’t safe for pedestrians to cross at-grade.... State law does require pedestrians to use marked crosswalks where they are provided.”

So, we went to the city. Channel 9 invited City Councilman Matt Newton to see the issue for himself.

“Oh my god,” Newton said, as he saw how dangerous the area is for pedestrians.

“I’ve seen young folks actually crossing right there,” said Newton, pointing to an area where the median has a gap.

While he’s seen some of the problems first hand, he was surprised by what Channel 9 cameras captured and wondered why there were no pedestrian bridges in the area.

“Nothing across,” Newton said. “That’s my question. I’m with you a million percent. These plans were put into place before I was elected a council person. And that’s what makes sense,” said Newton.

He plans to address this problem with council to try and get money for safer crossings. And, said the growing city needs a better strategy.

“I don’t know if we have a well-designed plan to tackle that growth, so this is what you get,” said Newton.

And if you ask the people who risk their lives every day. It’s only a matter of time before another memorial is put up along the road.

“I pray to God nobody does, but I feel somebody will the way they be driving out here,” said Jamarcus Haynes, who walks the area.