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Lake Norman road widening could present a dangerous traffic mess, church says

Brawley School Road crosses Interstate 77 in Mooresville. There are plans to widen another stretch of the road, but St. Therese Catholic Church warns that eliminating left turns in front of the church will create a traffic mess.
Brawley School Road crosses Interstate 77 in Mooresville. There are plans to widen another stretch of the road, but St. Therese Catholic Church warns that eliminating left turns in front of the church will create a traffic mess. Observer file photo

The state’s plans to expand the final 1.1-mile leg of a major Lake Norman road could create an unintended dangerous traffic mess, leaders of a large church along the road say.

Preliminary plans for the stretch of Brawley School Road in Mooresville call for right-turns-only out of St. Therese Catholic Church, one of the largest churches in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte with 4,200 registered families. Many members turn left back toward Lake Norman after the church’s six weekend services but would now have to use a U-turn lane, according to a drawing of the state’s plans unveiled at a recent public meeting.

The stretch is at the opposite end of the 9-mile road from President Donald Trump’s Trump National Golf Club, Charlotte.

The project would expand Brawley School Road to two lanes in each direction from Talbert Road, just east of Interstate 77 Exit 35, to U.S. 21. That stretch of two-lane, 45-mph Brawley School Road is hilly and curvy, and the town of Mooresville has pushed the state to improve the stretch for decades.

The project also would add sidewalks and 4-foot bike lanes in each direction and a raised, divided median. U.S. 21 will be expanded from a two-lane undivided route to four lanes with a raised, divided median.

The latest preliminary estimated cost to widen the stretch is $6.2 million – about $5.3 million for construction and $890,000 to buy right-of-way, said Bryan Sowell, DOT’s Shelby-based Division 12 project engineer.

Officials with the state Department of Transportation said public involvement is important to the project, and they promise to address any concerns such as those raised by the church.

Although it could handle 30 cars, the U-turn lane would quickly fill up, potentially backing cars onto what would be Brawley’s two eastbound high-speed regular lanes, church leaders say in a letter the church plans to send on Friday to DOT’s Division 12 engineer’s office.

About 2,500 people attend the church’s six weekend services, and its 500-car parking lot often fills up, church officials say in the letter. Those numbers don’t include the numerous cars that use the parking lot weekdays for the church’s dozens of lay group meetings.

The church welcomes upgrades to the road, church officials say in the letter, but “we do not believe the current plan has sufficient capacity to handle our current load, let alone future growth.” In a typical month, 20 to 30 more families join the church, according to the letter.

The church pays Mooresville police officers to control traffic on the road at the end of services so churchgoers can safely turn left. The church would no longer use officers once the road is expanded and everyone has to turn right, the letter says.

The church is sending its letter as the public comment period is about to close. Comments should be mailed or emailed to Sowell by Nov. 3 in care of NCDOT Division 12, Project Engineer, P.O. Box 47, Shelby NC 28151-0047; or bksowell@ncdot.gov.

The state intends to begin buying right-of-way for the project in fall 2018 and begin expanding the road in fall 2020. No completion date has been announced.

Brawley School Road was once among the most notoriously backed-up roads in the Charlotte region, but almost all of it has been expanded to four lanes. Stimulus money from President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act paid for a $22.6 million stretch that included building Exit 35.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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