A gem of an idea for Exit 28
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Sunday, Jan. 17, 2010

A gem of an idea for Exit 28

CORNELIUS The town is studying a novel design for a revamped Interstate 77 Exit 28, one so new it's being used in only one other place in the United States: Springfield, Mo.

It's known as a "Diverging Diamond" interchange, and its aims are to accommodate more traffic, move it faster, decrease congestion and increase safety, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation.

Installing such an interchange at Exit 28 would also save taxpayers potentially tens of millions of dollars, Cornelius project manager Doug Barrick said.

It would require expanding several hundred feet of the road on both sides of the interstate bridge, Barrick said. The I-77 bridge deck wouldn't have to be rebuilt, so the project could end up costing roughly $5million, compared with the $30million to $35million it would take to build an interchange such as the new Exit 31 in south Iredell, he said.

Cornelius already has received a $6million federal earmark through U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., toward improving the exit.

With a Diverging Diamond interchange, motorists on West Catawba and Catawba avenues wouldn't have to stop at a light to turn left onto the interstate.

Northbound and southbound traffic exiting I-77 would flow more freely, no longer stacked up at lights where the exit ramps meet West Catawba-Catawba.

A diagram of traffic flow at a Diverging Diamond interchange can be viewed at www.435ddi.com, part of the Missouri Department of Transportation's Web site.

The town's next step is to hire an engineering firm to study whether a Diverging Diamond interchange would fit into Exit 28's present space and not displace businesses, and whether the town has enough right-of-way for such an interchange, Barrick said.

Town staff could then present a proposal to the state in early spring, he said. "DOT will be an integral part of this," Barrick said.

The Federal Highway Administration would have to approve using part of the federal earmark for such a design, he said.

Barrick said it would probably take a year before any construction begins. Installing the interchange would then take up to six months, he said.

Regional census office opens

Mayor Scott Padgett, state Sen. Fletcher Hartsell Jr., R-Cabarrus, and other officials formally welcomed the regional census office at 280 Executive Park Drive, Suite 160, at a ribbon cutting Friday.

The office brings about 1,200 temporary jobs to the Concord area.

The office is handling 2010 census operations in Cabarrus, Rowan, Stanly, Union, Anson and Montgomery counties.

Davidson receives energy grants

The town was among eight N.C. "Main Street" communities that collectively received more than $330,000 in federal Recovery Act money to help with energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives, Gov. Bev Perdue announced recently.

The grants are the first distribution of money from the N.C. Energy Program for the state's Main Street initiative. Local matching funds must be committed.

Davidson was awarded $5,300 to convert all overhead fluorescent lighting in the town hall and the fire station to energy-efficient fixtures and replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent mini-spirals. That will result in a 43percent energy cost reduction, town officials said.

Half the match for the town's portion of the grant will come from the Duke Energy Smart Saver Energy Plan. The rest will come from the town's operating budget.

The second grant, for $13,767, was awarded to the town to join Urban Organic I LLC in achieving EPA Energy Star certification for the Business Center @ South Main Square. The town's match will come from Urban Organic I LLC.

Energy improvements to the building will include replacing manual thermostats with programmable ones and replacing a controller, resulting in an annual savings of $750, officials said.

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