Keep your eyes open on inbound Independence Boulevard if your commute takes you through the freeway construction zone.
The $100-million-plus widening project between Wallace Lane and Sharon Amity Road will shift inbound traffic next week or the week of Aug. 3.
All inbound traffic will use the new outside lanes that are under construction on the right side of the road between Idlewild and Sharon Amity roads.
“The most noticeable portion will be at the beginning of the shift, just past Farmingdale, but it will not be a sharp curve,” said Eric “Nat” Hunter, Division 10 resident engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation.
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The shift to the new lanes will happen when crews complete the paving work for the new inbound lanes.
Moving traffic to those new lanes will allow crews to continue working on the bridge and ramps at Sharon Amity. With traffic moved farther from the median, the contractor, DeVere Construction Company, can bring in a crane and other equipment for the bridge work.
Converting Independence to a freeway between uptown and Interstate 485 is a 26-year-old project that is slowly transforming the corridor, removing traffic signals along with older commercial properties from an era of slower-moving travel along this popular east-west thoroughfare. Limited access during construction caused many businesses to suffer or fail. Businesses in the construction zone today face the same uncertainty.
Officials at N.C. DOT say the work is necessary and describe Independence as “a crucial piece” for efficient travel, economic development and environmental stewardship in North Carolina.
More than 70,000 vehicles per day travel through the stretch near Idlewild Road. Traffic volumes are expected to range from 77,200 to 91,000 vehicles a day by 2030.
To convert Independence to a freeway in this latest 1.6-mile mile stretch, crews will widen the road from three to four lanes plus one bus lane in each direction. Four traffic lights also will be removed.
A new bridge has already opened at Conference Drive. Two remaining bridges, at Sharon Amity and Idlewild, should be completed by summer 2016, Hunter said.
The contractor has been focusing this summer on adding the new inbound lanes between Idlewild and Sharon Amity. Meanwhile work on the bridges slowed down. That will change in August, as crews pick up again on building the overpass and ramps at Sharon Amity.
“It will be within a couple of weeks, after they make this traffic shift,” Ryan said. “So sometime in August.”