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U-turns trigger concerns in Denver

Business group calls two proposed N.C. 16 interchanges unsafe.

By Joe Marusak
jmarusak@charlotteobserver.com
Joe Marusak
Columnist/reporter Joe Marusak writes about the people of Lake Norman and also covers retail, restaurant and development news.

A Denver-area business group opposes the design of two proposed interchanges on a planned leg of four-lane N.C. 16, calling them unsafe.

The state intends to build interchanges on N.C. 16 at St. James Church and Optimist Club roads, but the Denver Area Business Association board of directors voted unanimously against the plans last week.

John Anderson, a consultant for the group, said the design would require school buses, large trucks, emergency vehicles and other motorists to make U-turns onto a 55-mph highway, which the association believes is unsafe.

A motorist traveling west on Optimist Club Road and wanting to cross N.C. 16 to continue on Optimist Club, for example, would have to turn right onto N.C. 16 North, cross two lanes of traffic and get into a U-turn lane to enter N.C. 16 South. The motorist would then cross two lanes to exit back onto Optimist. The state is building a new four-lane N.C. 16 from N.C. 73 into Catawba County.

The association wants the N.C. Department of Transportation to instead install traditional intersections with signal lights.

Dan Grissom, DOT's division construction engineer, said forcing motorists to stop at a light on a high-speed highway is dangerous.

“People are killed at intersections (with lights or stop signs) every day,” he said. “That is not the cure-all people think they are.”

Grissom said the design of the planned N.C. 16 intersections has worked well elsewhere across the state for years, including on U.S. 74 and U.S. 17 in Wilmington and on U.S. 321 in Caldwell County.

East Lincoln businessman Bo Moore said he's concerned because the planned N.C. 16 intersections would serve traffic to and from five schools.

“I can't imagine sending my child to drive across that intersection early in the morning to go to school,” said Moore, chairman of the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce transportation committee.

Mitch Sherrill, a Lincoln County Schools assistant superintendent, said officials would likely have to find safer routes, which would add to the district's fuel costs.

Moore said time is limited to oppose the plan, because DOT intends to seek bids for paving that leg of the highway on Aug. 19.

Moore said he and other concerned residents want DOT to include an addendum to the bid-letting, offering an alternative bid to install signals.

He said he intends to meet soon with top DOT officials in the region and Judge Robert Collier of Statesville, the local representative on the N.C. Board of Transportation.

“I've worked on this road for 20 years, and I want to make sure we proceed with the best and safest intersections,” Moore said. “I want to make sure that whatever goes in is well thought out and communicated. We're spending $100 million on this road, so let's make sure we don't cut corners at the intersections.”

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