The N.C. Board of Transportation made the final decision Thursday morning. The Charlotte City Council and the Huntersville Board of Commissioners both had to approve the resolution before it went to the N.C. DOT’s Road and Bridge Naming Committee in December. All four votes, including the Board of Transportation’s vote, were unanimous.
Once the highway is completed, travelers will see signs for the H. Allen Tate, Jr. Highway, starting at N.C Highway 115, running east to where the beltway meets Interstate 85.
Natalie English, senior vice president of public policy at the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, who’s worked with Tate since she moved to Charlotte in 1997, relayed the news to him over the phone immediately following the decision. She said the appreciation in his voice brought tears to her eyes.
“He tried to deflect the credit to all of the people who were involved, and he was the guy that poked and prodded and kept all of us engaged and active in it,” she said of his reaction to the news.
Tate, 83, was not available for an interview.
English said expediting the completion of the beltway had been a priority of Tate’s since the mid-2000s, when he was named chair of the Charlotte Chamber’s Regional Roads Committee. At that time, the $140 million project wasn’t expected to start until this year, with a completion date of 2020.
English said that Tate met with “every single elected official that had any connection to state road building” to talk about the importance of the region’s roads, including North Carolina’s 2008 gubernatorial candidates, Beverly Purdue and now-Gov. Pat McCrory, leading up to the election.
Said Ned Curran, chairman of the N.C Board of Transportation and president and CEO of The Bissell Cos., “It’s not just been about Charlotte, it’s also been about the region; you’ve got to have a broader perspective in mind and he’s been great at championing that kind of approach.”
In late 2009, former Gov. Purdue announced the expedited plan to finish the final section of the beltway.
But the decision to name the 5.7-mile stretch of interstate in honor of Tate wasn’t solely based on his role with the outer loop project.
English said his vision for regional transportation improvements date back to when he was on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission in the 1960s and 1970s.
“He was already reaching across city, county and state lines to start conversations about what kind of connectivity we needed,” she said.
Tate chaired the commission for nine years, during which he also joined a committee that advised the state’s DOT on how to spend federal highway dollars.
From there, Tate joined the Charlotte Chamber’s Business Community for Regional Transportation Solutions (BCRTS), which aimed to gain transportation support from the region’s business community.
The BCRTS led to the formation of the Regional Roads Committee, which was headed by Tate, and in 2009, he was appointed to the Committee of 21 for Charlotte-Mecklenburg roads and infrastructure by the Charlotte City Council.
Tate received The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, the highest honor the state’s governor can give a North Carolina civilian, in 2008 for his service to planning, regionalism and transportation.
The final segment of the outer loop is expected to open to the public April 21, according to N.C. Department of Transportation Deputy Division Engineer Scott Cole.