Visitors from as far away as Hawaii and California have stopped by Memory Lane Museum this year to view its automobiles dating to 1904 and race cars from throughout the history of NASCAR.
But owner Alex Beam worries about whether they’ll bother to visit after the state widens N.C. 150 and puts a median along the 13.5-mile stretch from Mooresville to the four-lane N.C. 16 Bypass in Catawba County.
Memory Lane is 1.5 miles west of Interstate 77 Exit 36, which is how most car aficionados get to the museum. The median will prevent motorists from turning left into Memory Lane, forcing them to drive 1.5 miles west to Doolie and Perth roads to turn around, Beam said.
Beam’s private museum has become a Mooresville tourist attraction since it opened in 2001, drawing visitors from every state and numerous countries. Cars on display were used in such movies as “Days of Thunder,” “The Color Purple,” “Leatherheads” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”
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Beam and several other N.C. 150 business owners said the median will curtail trade at the 60 or more businesses that operate from Sam’s Club west to the N.C. 150 bridge on the Iredell-Catawba county line. They want the state to build a left-turn lane as part of the $117 million project to turn two-lane N.C. 150 into a four-lane highway divided by a median.
Right-of-way acquisition is expected to begin in 2017, and construction is due to start in 2019, state Department of Transportation officials have said.
Concerned businesses include such longtime establishments as Big Daddy’s of Lake Norman Restaurant and Oyster Bar and newer ones such as Point Blank Range, an indoor firearms range near Beam’s museum.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Eric Taylor, operations manager at Point Blank Range, said Thursday. “I can’t imagine a reason why this would be a good idea.”
Point Blank Range gets 70 percent of its business from Lake Norman-area residents who use Exit 36 and turn left into the range, Taylor said.
“Car washes, flower shops, people can’t turn left into,” Beam said of the planned median.
Beam and other business owners complained to State Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Mooresville, who took the issue to N.C. Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata.
As a result, officials from the state highway division that includes Iredell and Catawba counties have agreed to listen to the concerns at a community meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Living Waters, a Foursquare Gospel church beside Beam’s museum.
Just look at what happened to a small retail center at nearby Brawley School and Oak Tree roads when the state installed medians on both roads as part of Brawley School Road’s widening, Brawley said. Two eateries in the shopping center closed..
Living Waters pastor Roy Young said he, too, favors the state adding a left-turn lane along the corridor. His church opened in 1996 and has 55 members.
But based on current and projected traffic volumes and crash data, “a center median is likely in order to provide better safety and traffic operations,” DOT spokeswoman Jordan-Ashley Baker said Friday in an email reply to the Observer. “The specific locations of median breaks, turn lanes, signals and other details have not been determined, as the planning and design work for the project is just starting.”
At a public workshop in November on its N.C. 150 widening plans, the state included a corridor map in some of its exhibits that showed a study area and a “typical” cross-section, she said.
“The typical was included to show a likely road segment, two lanes in each direction with a center median,” Baker said. “Some attendees believed the typical cross-section displayed would be what would be used the entire length of the project. This is not the case. There will be turn lanes at appropriate locations to provide left and U-turns along the corridor.”
Beam and other business owners said they hope to get across the message Tuesday that people’s livelihoods are at stake.
“There are so many different places where there should be left-turn lanes; they just need to put one all the way down,” Beam said.