The final segment of Interstate 485 is scheduled to be complete before the end of the year, and area runners, walkers and cyclists will be among the first to use the highly anticipated stretch of road during an afternoon in November.
The I-485 MADD Dash 5K, 10K and Fun Run will celebrate the completion of I-485 on Nov. 2, said Jen Thompson, a N.C. Department of Transportation spokesperson. It also will give people a chance to experience the interstate segment before it opens to vehicle traffic.
The event will benefit the state’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization, which has been partnering with the N.C. DOT for the past year to help plan the event.
The idea is based on three similar N.C. DOT events that took place in Raleigh when the final segments of the Triangle Expressway opened in 2011 and 2012, said LaRonda Scott, executive director of the state MADD office.
Together, those events raised between $70,000 and $75,000 for the organization.
“Because it was so unique and not an average walk or 5K is what attracted people,” she said. “They wanted the honor of being down on the roadway before it opened up (as well as) individuals who were qualifying for other events coming up.”
Construction of the last leg of I-485 in Mecklenburg County began in summer 2011. The final 5.7 miles of interstate will complete the I-485 loop around Charlotte, Thompson said.
When complete, the last portion will connect the existing segments from just east of N.C. 115/Old Statesville Road in Huntersville to I-85 in the University City area, near the Cabarrus County line, Thompson said.
There will be three lanes in each direction, interchanges at Prosperity Church and Mallard Creek roads, she said. Parking and access for the MADD Dash will be on Loganville Road, which is in the middle of the Prosperity Church interchange.
Organizers are anticipating at least 1,000 participants from across the state, Scott said: “Individuals do travel for events.”
A billboard campaign advertised the event earlier this year as a kind of “save the date,” she said. University City Partners – one of the event sponsors – recently sent out an email blast about the MADD Dash.
“We saw an increase in registration on active.com and (likes) on Facebook,” said MADD’s Scott. Organizers expect many participants to register in the weeks leading up to the event, she said.
In October, drivers on I-77 will see several billboards advertising the event, thanks to Adams Outdoor Advertising, Thompson said. But organizers plan to make use of social media and community partnerships to try and keep advertising costs low, so they can invest as much as possible in MADD, Scott said.
Through Sept. 13, runners and walkers can get the “early-bird” registration price of $25 per person. After that, registration will increase to $35 per person, Thompson said.
Bicyclists can register for $5 and will be able to ride once the runners have finished.
The money raised for MADD is used for needs such as certain types of training and travel that grant-specific funding can’t cover, Scott said.
“Our organization is helping people and saving lives. … (Events such as the I-485 MADD Dash) help us continue to provide services to victims and families for free,” she said. All money raised in the state are used in North Carolina.
A number of event details are still being solidified, Thompson said. Organizers hope churches and students will get involved, as well as families and athletes.
The timed race and certified course counts as a qualifying run.
It’s likely the event will feature food, music and children’s activities such as inflatable bounce houses, Thompson said, as well as race awards made out of concrete with the event logo.
“You’ll have something to commemorate your placing (in the MADD Dash) and to commemorate a major, major milestone in construction.”
Scott recalled children at Raleigh’s Expressway Trots using sidewalk chalk to draw on the newly finished highway segments before they opened to vehicle traffic.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said, “to be part of something that’s going to help save lives.”