Several road construction projects set to start or wrap up in the coming months will help ease congestion and increase connectivity throughout Cabarrus County.
Jen Thompson, communications officer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, said the $187 million project to widen the last 7.9 miles of Interstate 85 – from north of N.C. 73 to north of Lane Street in Cabarrus County – will complete the interstate widening from two to four lanes in each direction through the county.
Construction could start as early as spring 2015, and it’s expected to be finished in December 2017.
One of the design changes in the project will include a connector road between Ridge Avenue and Main Street rather than constructing a bridge that carries Winecoff School Road traffic over the railroad track.
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The connector will be built to travel under the railroad and Main Street bridges that cross the interstate at the U.S. 29/601 interchange.
“This substantially reduces the impacts to several businesses at the intersection of Winecoff School Road and Main Street,” said Leza Wright Mundt, a project planning engineer.
Also with the preliminary design plan, several businesses would have been affected by improvements at the intersection of Kannapolis Highway and U.S. 29/601, Mundt said.
“The new design realigns Kannapolis Highway, tying it into U.S. 29/601 directly across from Mall Drive,” Mundt said. “This location has fewer constraints, and though two businesses are impacted, it is not as many, and it provides for better traffic operations.”
The biggest change in the design for Dale Earnhardt Boulevard includes the placement of the elongated loop ramp that was proposed to use Jaycee Road.
“The design team was able to move it to the other side of Lowe’s (Home Improvement), so that the residential re-locations were avoided,” Mundt said. “This also allowed us to end the project construction limits closer to the interchange, so that intersections such as Coldwater Ridge were not affected.”
The DOT hosted a public meeting in late July to discuss the project. The final design was presented at the meeting as DOT representatives answered questions and took comments from residents. Mundt said more than 230 people attended the drop-in meeting.
“My impression, based on the conversations I had with a number of folks, is that the design changes presented were welcome and generally seen as improvements over those shown in the preliminary design,” Mundt said. “The public comment period ended Aug. 7, so we haven’t prepared a summary of the comments yet.”
Construction also is underway along George W. Liles Parkway, which will be expanded 3.2 miles from Roberta Road to Weddington Road. This $37 million project will create a four-lane, divided system with a multi-use path for pedestrians and cyclists between Weddington Road and U.S. 29.
“We should have the segment between U.S. 29 and Weddington Road open in the spring 2015, with the entire project wrapping up in September 2017,” Thompson said. “The big benefit from this project is the direct connection from N.C. 3 over I-85 to U.S. 29.”
And just outside the county, the $92 million I-85/I-485 turbine is expected to be complete in December.
This improvement will allow motorists to move between both interstates at highway speed and also continue on I-485 to directly access Interstate 77 in north Charlotte, Thompson said.
“Streets that see a lot of traffic – Harris Boulevard, Mallard Creek Road, Eastfield Road – will see relief once the interchange is fully functional,” Thompson said. “With the completion of the turbine interchange and the final leg of I-485, the region will have a complete loop around Charlotte that will improve mobility for local and regional traffic.”
Joe Wilson, a Cabarrus resident since 1989 and Concord’s transportation director since 2002, said current and future improvements will help traffic flow, but they’ll also provide alternate ways to reach the interstate.
“We’re providing an option that didn’t exist before,” Wilson said. “All of these, or most of these projects have been talked about, declared (important) for a long, long time and we sort of had to just wait our turn for funding to come around.”
Wilson said there’s also growing support for creating an overpass to Concord Mills mall to alleviate congestion and traffic around Exit 49, the busiest exit in the state.
“As options come, traffic will redistribute and relieve congestion in common trouble areas,” Wilson said.