By Dave Vieser. When you’re stuck in traffic on I-77 or Hwy. 73, the mind turns to why modern roads weren’t built as Lake Norman developed. Lack of funds or lack of planning? Indeed, 25 years ago, private banking advisors were telling high net worth clients growth would flood Charlotte and its environs.
A number of projects in the region which should help relieve some of the regions’ congestion will put a dent in traffic congestion
I-85 Highway Widening: This is $293 million project has the DOT adding four additional travel lanes and other improvements to Interstate 85 in Cabarrus and Rowan counties.
The Cabarrus County portion begins just north of N.C. 73 (Exit 55) where a previous widening project ended in Concord near Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. It will continue for approximately seven miles, through Kannapolis and the U.S. 29/601 connector in China Grove, ending just north of Moose Road in Rowan County. DOT plans to reconstruct the existing interchange at U.S. 29/601 and N.C. 152, as well as the I-85/NC 152 interchange. The completion date for the Cabarrus County section is December 2017
Derita Road Widening: This $21 million project will widen a 2.6 mile stretch of Derita Road in Concord. The section to be widened begins at the intersection with Poplar Tent Road extending to Concord Mills Boulevard. When completed the road will be four lanes with a 23 foot median and 14-foot lanes to accommodate bicycles. The widened road should facilitate increased traffic being generated in the immediate vicinity by Concord Regional Airport, expanding industry near the air field and motorists traveling to and from Concord Mills Mall. This project is being built in two sections. Right-of-way acquisition is in progress and construction is expected to begin shortly.
George Liles Parkway: Widening of the 3.2 mile section of George Liles Parkway in Concord from Roberta Road to Weddington Road is covered under a $37 million DOT contract. The road will be widened to four lanes and work should be completed in early 2018.
Mooresville Road/NC 3 Widening: This is a joint project between the DOT and the City of Kannapolis. The $27 million project calls for widening 2.5 miles to a four-lane “superstreet” with a median from the Kannapolis Parkway to Dale Earnhardt Blvd. It includes wider sidewalks on both sides, curb and gutters, and wider outside travel lanes for bicyclists. The superstreet concept which the DOT favors will require motorists seeking to turn left onto NC-3 to first turn right and then do a U-turn.
I-77 toll lanes: Construction work continues daily on adding the toll lanes between Exit 23 and Exit 36. DOT has entered into a controversial contract with Cintra/I 77 Mobility Partners for the work, claiming that it is investing only about $90 million of its own money. NCDOT says that its partnership with I-77 Mobility Partners significantly sped up the targeted completion date. Of course, general purpose funding was not used for I-77.
The status of the toll lane contract may change with a new administration in Raleigh.
Bonus Allocation Funds: As part of the I-77 contract the DOT made funds available for adjoining projects in local communities, as an “expression of appreciation,” although some critics called it “bribe money.” The funds are provided to regions that accept toll road projects or commit local funds toward state projects. For example, out of a total pool of $158 million, $5 million was allocated to improve the intersection of Torrence Chapel Road and West Catawba Ave in Cornelius, adjacent to Exit 28. However, these funds come with time limitations on when the money must be committed, or the funds will be reassigned to other projects. It remains to be seen whether local officials will be able to agree on specific project details in time to actually use the bonus funds.
In Cornelius, a $2.47 million construction project has begun on the town’s first park and ride facility, as crews clear land on a 4.34 acre parcel a block south of West Catawba just east of the One Norman Boulevard intersection. When completed by the end of April 2017, the facility will be able to accommodate approximately 350-400 vehicles and address current and future demand for park and ride spaces in Cornelius.
Still under study is what bus lines will be actually serving the new facility.
Blue Line extension: The Blue Line Extension runs 9.3-miles from the 7th Street Station in Center City Charlotte through the NoDA (North of Davidson) and University areas, terminating on the UNC-Charlotte campus. The line will have 11 new transit stations, and approximately 3,100 parking spaces will be provided at the four stations with parking facilities, including 3 parking garages.
The alignment will run within the existing Norfolk Southern and North Carolina Railroad (NCRR) rights-of-way from Center City Charlotte to the middle of the route where it will transition to the median of North Tryon Street/US-29. The line will remain in the median until approximately 1,000 feet north of the existing entrance to the UNC Charlotte’s Charlotte Research Institute, where it will enter the campus. The $1.16 billion extension is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.