State will expand final, traffic-clogged stretch of Lake Norman road

The state plans to widen the final stretch of West Catawba Avenue in Cornelius, where traffic backups are among the worst in the Lake Norman region.

The $12.5 million project will widen West Catawba from the light at Sam Furr Road/N.C. 73 to Jetton Road. West Catawba is one lane in each direction along that 2.3-mile stretch. The road was widened in recent years to four lanes from Jetton Road east to Interstate 77 Exit 28.

Traffic at times backs up 1.3 miles on West Catawba from N.C. 73 almost to the light at Westmoreland Road.

The state intends to begin buying right of way for the project in fiscal year 2016 and begin construction in fiscal year 2018, according to Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization documents. The group of elected officials from the region recommends Charlotte-area road priorities to the state.

State highway officials will hold a public meeting on their plans from 4 to 7 p.m. April 10 at Cornelius Town Hall.

The state says the widening also will make the stretch safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Some residents pushed last year for the removal of the No Turn on Red sign on West Catawba at N.C. 73, saying it causes the backups. Town officials took the request to the N.C. Department of Transportation, which cited safety concerns in declining to remove the sign.

The state concluded that without the sign, it would be difficult for motorists to turn out of Norman Island Road and the Sterling Pointe community onto N.C. 73 just west of the West Catawba-N.C. 73 intersection.

To further ease congestion along West Catawba, the state has issued a contract for Statesville-based Country Boy Landscaping to install a right turn lane by mid-May on eastbound West Catawba turning onto Westmoreland. Most of the work will be done at night, although the contractor can close one lane between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays and without time restrictions on weekends as necessary, Town Manager Anthony Roberts said.

Lane closures on the Exit 28 bridge, meanwhile, are expected from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday and April 6-7 as part of the state’s conversion of the exit into a safer diverging diamond interchange. One westbound lane will be closed on Wednesday and one eastbound lane on Thursday, Roberts said.