Patience, Ballantyne drivers. It will be worth the wait.
The expansion of a 9-mile stretch of Interstate 485 is now about one-third complete and remains on track to be finished by December 2014, N.C. Department of Transportation officials said last week.
The road is one of the busiest in the state, DOT spokeswoman Jen Thompson said, with 135,000 vehicles, 7 percent of which is truck traffic, traveling on it daily.
We want to be wrapping up this time next year, she said.
When N.C. DOT created plans for the project, it had estimated the work would be finished in 2016. But the contractor, Lane Construction, said it could be done by next December, Thompson said.
Design work on the $83.3-million project began last fall, and construction got underway this past spring.
The project will add one lane in each direction on the beltway between Interstate 77 and Rea Road. Right now, that stretch has two lanes in each direction.
And the project will add 22-foot shoulders that will be used for future toll lanes stretching past Rea Road to U.S. 74.
A trio of sound barrier walls also will be going up, along the I-485 inner loop from the bridge over Little Sugar Creek to the entrance ramp from N.C. 51, along the inner loop west of the entrance ramp from South Boulevard and along the outer loop between U.S. 521 and Elm Lane.
The state also is building a flyover bridge from Johnston Road North to the I-485 West inner loop and eliminating the traffic signal that backs up traffic and leads people onto the beltway from Johnston Road North.
The flyover should be ready for use by June, according to Thompson.
Right now, workers are building bridge columns and dealing with the substructure at the Johnston Road bridge site. They are also paving new lanes between I-77 and Johnston Road.
Once they started building the structure for the flyover, it caught some people by surprise, said Ray Eschert, president and founder of the Ballantyne Breakfast Club, a community group that advocates for the area.
But it was a pleasant surprise, because the area has long needed the flyover and I-485 expansion, Eschert said. The changes will provide much-needed relief from longstanding congestion for a rapidly growing area, Eschert said.
He also said he has not really heard any concerns about construction-related traffic.
People have wanted this for so long, Eschert said, that it would be ridiculous to complain about it happening.
Bell: 704-358-5696; Twitter: @abell
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