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NASCAR race fans have more I-85 lanes, but is that a problem?

Fans headed to Charlotte Motor Speedway for NASCAR races and other events the next two weekends will have access to more lanes on Interstate 85 than in years past, but authorities aren’t sure if that’s a good thing.

The N.C. Department of Transportation earlier this year finished most of the work on expanding I-85 from Bruton Smith Boulevard north to near N.C. 73 in Cabarrus County. Two lanes have been added in that area.

“But I’m a little concerned about that,” N.C. Highway Patrol Sgt. Glenn Stokes said Monday. “We’re hoping fans follow the same route they took the past few years.”

Stokes and state transportation officials are concerned that fans headed to the speedway from the north will now drive farther south and try to exit I-85 at Bruton Smith Boulevard, instead of getting off at Exit 58 (U.S. 29-U.S. 601 in Concord) or Exit 52 (Poplar Tent Road).

That would send them directly to one of the the Charlotte area’s most congested interchanges.

“We’re still recommending that fans use Exit 58 or Exit 52, then get on U.S. 29 to the track – just like in past years,” Stokes said. “That will be the quicker route.”

Stokes and N.C. Department of Transportation engineer Tim Kirk said the Bruton Smith Boulevard interchange is one of the state’s busiest, with Concord Mills as the centerpiece of a major retail area.

“Add a lot of racing fans to the shopping traffic, and you have congestion,” Stokes said.

Kirk added, “If you’re coming from the north, the best way is Exit 58 or Exit 52.”

Fans headed to the track from Charlotte and other points to the south are also being urged to follow the same route as in the past – U.S. 29, which can be accessed off I-485.

“I-485 and U.S. 29 is by far the best way of getting to the speedway from the south,” Kirk said.

Stokes also noted that fans leaving the races might find troopers directing them in a different direction than the one in which they arrived. He said fans should follow troopers’ instructions because eventually they’ll be able to turn around and take the route they originally wanted.

“Just go with the flow,” he said. “The troopers know what they’re doing.”

Lyttle: 704-358-6107; Twitter: @slyttle
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