The new interchange connecting Interstates 85 and 485 in northeast Mecklenburg will help attract new businesses and jobs to the area, a federal official said Tuesday.
The interchange, which is expected to open next year, is the first in the state to feature a turbine design. Drivers will move in a counter-clockwise fashion along traffic circles around a central bridge.
The goal is to make it easier for people to travel between the interstates without having to slow down much. Right now, drivers wanting to move from I-485 to southbound I-85 must slow down quickly and make a sharp right turn to get on the interstate.
With the new interchange, drivers likely won’t have to make any big adjustments.
“You’ll be making an exit ... and making a long sweeping left turn and before you know it you’ll be on the other interstate,” said Jen Thompson, a spokeswoman with the N.C. Department of Transportation. “And you’ll be able to do that at highway speed.”
Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez visited the site on Tuesday along with state transportation officials.
“Improving this critical transportation corridor will attract businesses and jobs, and improve quality of life for area residents,” Mendez said. “This is a good example of what President Obama meant when he called on us to improve infrastructure to stimulate business development.”
The interchange is one of three major transportation projects in the area. Crews also are working to finish the remaining 5.7 mile-leg of I-485 and to widen I-85 to eight lanes between Bruton Smith Boulevard and N.C. 73. Part of the I-85 project also includes building a “diverging diamond” interchange at two intersections in Concord.
Officials hope to open all three of the projects next year, said Thompson.
She said the three projects were originally set to start construction after 2014, but the state was able to begin earlier by bundling them together and using a “design build finance” method, in which the contractor helped pay for construction before being reimbursed.
Thompson said the I-485 and I-85 projects are part of a big series of efforts to ease traffic in the Charlotte region. Some of the others that are underway or are planned include widening of I-485 in southern Mecklenburg, widening Independence Boulevard, and completing the new Yadkin River Bridge.