Relief is here for drivers along Independence Boulevard who have had to find detours around Idlewild Road during bridge construction.
The new bridge takes Idlewild Road over Independence Boulevard and officially opened Tuesday morning. It’s the last of three bridges built with interchanges as part of a massive widening and improvement project along a 1.6-mile stretch of US 74.
Bridges at Sharon Amity Road and Conference Drive opened earlier.
“It’s so congested with traffic,” said Denise Colter, who lives nearby. “You’ve got all this roadwork coming out and people trying to get home. It’s so hard sometimes.”
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Colter expressed excitement about the bridge opening.
“I don’t have to go all the way around anymore,” she said, referencing the extra distance and time it takes to use Conference Drive instead.
The N.C. Department of Transportation started shifting traffic Monday at 8 p.m. Crews then closed the left turn lanes from Independence Boulevard eastbound to the new Idlewild Road ramp from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Traffic signals were also relocated during the closure.
Drivers were detoured along Wallace Lane and Monroe Road until the traffic shift was complete, around 5 a.m. Tuesday.
Mike Melton, who has worked at Williams Subaru for the past 20 years, welcomes the opening of the new bridge. Melton says he will use it daily and hopes it has a positive effect on the area.
“The hope I would like to see is all the businesses come back,” said Melton.
Construction has scared away some customers, said Melton. It’s a familiar refrain expressed from business owners and manager along the Independence Boulevard corridor.
The project will not be finished until the end of summer, said Jen Thompson, spokesperson for the NC DOT. There’s still striping, paving and barriers to be added along the dedicated bus lanes, which will eventually be turned into an expressway.
Another widening project slated for the area approaching Interstate 485 is expected to start in the next few years.
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