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Final traffic snarls likely Friday

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Updated 1:55 a.m.

The final impact of the Democratic National Convention for many people in the Charlotte region will be road closures due to motorcade activity Friday morning.

That means Interstates 485 and 77, along with the Billy Graham Parkway, are likely to be closed for a while -- probably between 9:45 and 10:30 a.m. According to reports, President Obama is expected to leave Charlotte sometime around 10 a.m.

He is staying in Ballantyne, so his route to the airport -- while not disclosed by the Secret Service -- likely would include several south Charlotte freeways.

Motorcade-caused road closures have created plenty of traffic problems this week. That was the case twice Thursday, when First Lady Michelle Obama was taken from Ballantyne to the uptown area for convention-related meetings, and again in the afternoon when the president was driven to the convention.

Typically, the road closures last about 25 to 30 minutes.

Still busy at 2 a.m.

Nearly three hours after the convention adjourned, the streets of Charlotte remained very busy early Friday.

Large numbers of buses were still waiting to pull into their assigned stops next to the Charlotte Convention Center to pick up delegates. Hundreds of delegates were standing at the stops, and many more continued heading toward the Convention Center from Time Warner Cable Arena.

A spokeswoman for Charlotte Area Transit System said the light rail system was still running, and she said it will continue running as long as passengers are waiting at the Stonewall Street station. One person who rode the train shortly after 1 a.m. reported it was full.

CATS on the move

Azania Herron, a CATS spokeswoman, said that currently 80 percent of their buses are on time and 20 percent are running 10 to 15 minutes behind schedule.

At times this week, some buses have been running as late as 20 minutes, she said.

Herron said the LYNX light rail will operate until 2 a.m. Friday. If there are still a lot of people waiting at the Stonewall station at that time, however, the system is prepared to continue operating for a longer period of time, said Herron.

Meanwhile, buses are expected to run until 1:30 a.m., although the system is prepared to operate later if necessary.

"We’re ready to help people get to their final destinations tonight," she said.

In the arena

James Taylor performed for the packed crowd at the arena shortly after 5 p.m. at the final night of the DNC. He had the crowd clapping and dancing. Soon after, the convention officially convened.

Marc Anthony sang the national anthem.

Gabby Giffords, the former Congresswoman from Arizona, was met bu huge applause and a standing ovation before she led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Some people dabbed away tears.

Other musicians, including the Foo Fighters and Mary J. Blige, also played on for the crowd. Other celebrities spotted there include actors Jon Hamm and Rob Reiner.

Speakers between 7-8 p.m. include U.S. Rep. James Clyburn and actress Scarlett Johannson. From 8-9 p.m. includes Caroline Kennedy, actress Eva Longoria and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.

Vice President Joe Biden is expected to speak around 10 p.m. and President Barack Obama will take the stage around 10:30 p.m.

The boss had left the hotel

A presidential motorcade left the Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge property in south Charlotte Thursday morning.

A motorcade accompanied by police escort left around 9:50 a.m., turning right on Johnston Road off the portion of Ballantyne Commons Parkway that has been closed to the public.

Inside the hotel, security was conspicuously absent. There were no visible perimeter guards or security. And a reporter wandered throughout the lobby without being stopped Thursday morning.

In addition to a hotel, the property includes a 3,670-square-foot “cottage” and a 40,000 square-foot North Carolina Mountain-style hunting lodge.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden will take the stage Thursday evening to share their vision for why voters should give the administration a second term in office.

The Obama and Biden speeches will help to cap the third and final day of the Democratic National Convention. The pair will address party delegates, officials and other guests gathered at Time Warner Cable Arena, with the vice president set to speak first at about 10 p.m.

The acceptance speeches were originally planned to occur at Bank of America Stadium. But after days of rainy weather and the threat of storms on Thursday, organizers pulled the plug on the outdoor event and kept the arena open for one more day.

The move means fewer people will get to see the speeches in person. Among those left out are about 65,000 members of the public who received community credentials for the stadium event. They were encouraged to hold block parties or watch the speech from home.

The relocation of the speech also means that street closures and other restrictions around the arena and other streets nearby would remain in place for one more day. The city also is keeping its temporary transit center at Third and Mint streets through the evening.

Local officials also warned that people traveling near Bank of America Stadium could run into periodic traffic disruptions as crews work to remove fencing and other security barriers that were erected earlier this week. And other disruptions could occur in Ballantyne and other areas once the presidential motorcade moves through town.

Charlotte could begin to return to normal Friday as security restrictions begin to be lifted and many of the 35,000 delegates, media, protesters and others start to return home.

But first, here is a look at what is in store for Thursday.

I-277 to open, but some roads remain closed

The decision to move Thursday’s DNC acceptance speech by President Barack Obama was a good news/bad news situation for residents and visitors in Charlotte.

It was generally good news for anyone who usually drives on the John Belk Freeway or travels near Bank of America Stadium.

Road closures, parking and pedestrian restrictions scheduled to take place near the Bank of America Stadium on Thursday have been lifted, including restrictions on Interstate 277, which will now remains open, according to federal law enforcement officials.

But for those who were anticipating the lifting of restrictions near Time Warner Cable Arena on Thursday (all the activity had been scheduled to move to the stadium), it’s bad news.

For a map of the closures, visit http://bit.ly/Op3xkv

The bottom line: All road closures and other restrictions surrounding Time Warner Cable Arena will be extended until 9 a.m. Friday. Closures and other restrictions on some Ballantyne-area streets – view them here http://bit.ly/OKqnDI – will remain in place until about noon Friday.

In addition, some pedestrian checkpoints were announced late Wednesday, including at the intersections of South College and Stonewall streets; West Sixth and North Church streets and McDowell at Sixth Street.

Federal authorities also have warned that additional, and sometimes unannounced, changes could be necessary.

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Compiled by April Bethea, Kerry Singe and Adam Bell, with additional reporting by Joe DePriest, Elisabeth Arriero, David Perlmutt, Karen Garloch, Pam Kelley, Steve Lyttle, Mark Price, Karen Sullivan and WCNC-TV.

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