I posted a while ago about the NCDOT John St widening project, but have been largely silent here. It's turned into quite a fiasco and because we were working with local politicians I had to tip toe around some of the realities (oddities) of my personal experience. I'm still not sure why the John Street Widening (NCDOT U-4714) is being pushed through Matthews, but it is. What was originally presented as a superstreet has been rebranded as a widening, though it's still a superstreet. I think we're supposed to focus on the "super" part of that particular design, even though it will increase traffic by more than 30,000 cars daily. There's nothing super about destroying a town for the sake of what amounts to false pretense.
Charlie and I are raising our kids on this very road, so I spent a large portion of my free time in 2017 fighting it. To be honest my fight hasn't gotten us very far and has been very bad for my physical health. What was a 5 day a week gym habit in 2016 became 2 work outs a week in 2017. Weight gain from convenience foods and stress added to the reality that I couldn't keep up the pace. Also what I've realized is that the low, looming, grey fog of depression has been casting its shadow over me for months now.
It's just a road, so why? I (we, really, there's a group of us) entered the fight thinking that if we could sway our local politicians to see the downside of this plan then we could successfully negotiate a better design. We approached from all angles: homeowners personal, emotive experiences, the possibility of businesses being hurt, and the facts from the NCDOT documents themselves. Each time we were dismissed, always by NCDOT, usually by the former mayor, sometimes by members of town council. Still we did our best to focus on productivity and fact-finding.
A reporter asked me to read and comment on some things the (now-former) mayor had to say about me. I was flabbergasted; this giant punch in the gut took me down for the count. I honestly wasn't sure what I could do anymore. I realized he'd lied to NCDOT about our group's purpose and intentions, as well as the sheer number of supporters we have. He and other members of council lied to other citizens about our ethics, and council members had dissuaded local business owners from even communicating with us.
I've cried a lot (actually I still cry). It's hard to feel powerless simply because those in positions of authority use it to inaccurately smear their adversaries. To be fair we didn't actually know we were adversaries until the news brought it to my attention.
It's hard to be 40 years old and relive all the similar experiences of junior high and high school because middle aged men feel it's ok to bully. It's also hard to be in the fog of depression with the words "they'll hang themselves" repeating in your head...sticks and stones may break your bones but words can kill your spirit.
I've wondered how to move forward and fight for a healthier street design that will enable safety and independence for my children when they're old enough, but deep down I know an honest fight won't get us anywhere. So I'm going to talk about it. I'm going to be open about my experiences.