Starting around 9 a.m. Friday, the intersection of U.S. 51 and Idlewild Road will close for the construction of a new roundabout.
“Roundabouts are one way we work to increase safety. They are going to become more prominent in other areas around the region,” said Jen Thompson of the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT). “People try and run the red light, and it causes crashes too. So this is a safety enhancement. It also moves large volumes of traffic through quicker and it is easier to maintain.”
The NCDOT has awarded a $1.8 million contract to build the roundabout at the intersection and Blythe Construction is the lead contractor on the project.
To construct the roundabout safely and efficiently, crews will close the intersection of NC 51 and Idlewild Road beginning Friday. The closure is scheduled to last for eight weeks. Businesses at the intersection will still be accessible.
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“We are not asking or encouraging motorists to go through the parking lots of these businesses to get around the construction,” said Thompson.
However, some business owners near the intersection are still concerned.
“I believe that it is going to improve traffic down the road, but right now we are concerned,” said Philip Randazzo, the owner of Pizza Spiga. “The timing on the traffic light is not right. It does not give you enough time to get through so traffic backs up.”
Pizza Spiga has been open for nearly 20 years. To make sure customers keep coming, Randazzo is taking out a full-page ad in Clipper Magazine that will go out in July.
“I want to let people know that we will be serving, that we are open, and to please come because we are accessible,” said Randazzo.
Steven Christopher, the owner of Steven Christopher's Salon, shares some of those concerns.
“It is going to be a tremendous challenge for us to keep everything moving,” said Christopher. “I just hope that we can survive the eight weeks that it is going to be closed and that it will not be extended past that point.”
Christopher also supports the roundabout and believes that it will improve traffic. However, he hopes it will not cost him clients. He also hopes clear instructions are posted once the roundabout is complete.
“We are open and ready for business. Just come find us, we will be here. It may be a pain for eight weeks, but I think the long-term payoff outweighs the short-term concerns,” said Christopher.
The contractor must have the road back open to traffic in its final pattern by August 18, before school resumes. Additional work can continue under lane closures once the road opens until Sept. 8.
The following detours will be posted for motorists:
Idlewild Road from Margaret Wallace Road:
- Traffic will be detoured from Idlewild Road to Margaret Wallace Road. Motorists will turn right and follow Margaret Wallace Road to Sam Newell Road, turning left, following to U.S. 74 East. Staying east, motorists will take the ramp to the I-485 Outer Loop and follow to Idlewild Road (exit 49). A left turn will take motorists back toward the road closure, and a right turn will take motorists toward Hemby Bridge.
Idlewild Road from Union County:
- Traffic will be detoured from Idlewild Road to the I-485 Outer Loop to Lawyers Road (exit 47). Motorists will exit the interstate and turn left, following Lawyers Road toward Mint Hill. Crossing N.C. 51, motorists will turn left at Lebanon Road, then bear right to Margaret Wallace Road. Drivers can then turn left on Idlewild Road toward the road closure, or turn right toward Harris Boulevard.
N.C. 51 from Mint Hill:
- Traveling south on N.C. 51, motorists will turn left on Lawyers Road, following to Interstate 485, taking the exit to the Outer Loop toward Matthews. Motorists will exit to U.S. 74 West (exit 51A) and follow to N.C. 51. A left turn lets motorists continue south on N.C. 51 to Matthews, and a right turn will return traffic toward the road closure.
N.C. 51 from East Independence Blvd:
- Traveling north on N.C. 51, motorists will turn right to access U.S. 74 East, following to Interstate 485, taking the Outer Loop toward Mint Hill. Motorists will exit at Lawyers Road (exit 47). At the exit ramp, motorists will turn left, staying on Lawyers Road toward Mint Hill, following to N.C. 51. Motorists can turn right on N.C. 51 to reach I-485, or turn left back toward the road closure.