MOORESVILLE Bottlenecked N.C. 150 in the Lake Norman area is finally in line for some relief.
The project is still several years away, but the state on Thursday will hold a public meeting on its $117 million plan to expand the road from Interstate 77 Exit 36 in Mooresville to four-lane N.C. 16 Bypass in Catawba County. The stretch is 13.5 miles.
As the lake area’s population exploded in recent decades, traffic mounted and N.C. 150 has grown infamous for backups several miles long each morning and afternoon heading to and from the interstate.
The state hopes to address the crunch by expanding the highway to at least two lanes in each direction. N.C. 150 in the Lake Norman area is four lanes for only about a mile, from the interstate west to a Best Buy-anchored retail center at Morrison Plantation Parkway in Mooresville.
Traffic is expected to worsen when a Sam’s Club opens early next year off N.C. 150 across from Morrison Plantation Parkway.
Right-of-way acquisition on the 13.5-mile stretch scheduled for expansion is expected to begin in 2017 and construction to start in 2019, said Michael Wray of the N.C. Department of Transportation in Raleigh.
The project will include several alternatives for the Terrell Historic District in Catawba County, Wray said, including options for bypassing the district.
It’s too early to say whether the two-lane N.C. 150 bridge over the lake at the Iredell-Catawba county line will be expanded, he said. The state would like to hear from the public on that part of the project, too, he said.
The project is still in the early planning stage, the N.C. Department of Transportation said recently in its first of several planned online newsletters regarding the N.C. 150 improvements.
DOT will eventually map a preferred route based on engineering considerations, costs, public input and impacts on people and the environment. A public hearing will then be held on the department’s preferred route.
Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins on Wednesday called the project long overdue. “We’re excited the process is finally starting,” he said. “It would be hard not to be pleased and excited about it.”
“My question is, will it be built to meet the needs of today or the needs 20 years from now?” Atkins said. “We’re going to grow like crazy.”
Expanding N.C. 150’s traffic-clogged stretch through Mooresville was considered in the early 1990s, but a member of the N.C. Board of Transportation helped get a far more rural, less heavily traveled leg completed first.
Despite protests from residents along N.C. 150 from Cherryville in Gaston County to Lincolnton in Lincoln County, the state decided to expand that section instead of the Mooresville leg at Exit 36.
Cherryville had the nation’s sixth-largest trucking company, now-defunct Carolina Freight. Its chairman, Kenneth Younger, was a member of the N.C. Board of Transportation in the 1980s.
Younger’s term expired in 1990, but not before he’d voted four times for state highway plans that advanced the proposed widening of N.C. 150 through rural Gaston and Lincoln counties. The nine-mile, $44 million project began in front of his company’s terminal.
“All I was doing as a board member was following the wishes of the residents of Gaston County,” Younger told the Observer in 1993.
Younger said the project, backed by business and political leaders in neighboring counties, would be of minimal benefit to his business and that the sole purpose of his votes was to benefit local residents with a safer road.
Residents along the Cherryville stretch thought differently.
“I don’t know why we have to have a road when we don’t need one,” resident Malinda Reep said at the time.
Marusak: 704-358-5067; Twitter: @jmarusak
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