NC highway officials trying to expedite I-77 Exit 28 work

The general contractor on the Interstate 77 Exit 28 diverging diamond interchange project has added an extra crew to speed the work amid complaints of lengthy traffic delays and lost business.

Prompted by Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis, top state highway officials asked Blythe Construction of Charlotte to find a subcontractor who could do the extra work. Blythe couldn’t find anyone to perform more nighttime work, so it added more workers, Scott Allen of the Department of Transportation’s Albemarle office said Friday.

Travis said Thursday that he’s talked with officials in N.C. Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata’s office in Raleigh for two weeks about solving the traffic mess at the Lake Norman interchange.

Cornelius will pay for the extra work, including overtime and nights and weekends, Travis said he told the state.

The construction has created traffic backups of 30 to 40 minutes on Catawba and West Catawba avenues on and approaching the Exit 28 bridge.

The tie-ups prompted numerous complaints on the first day of school for Charlotte-Mecklenburg students Monday, Cornelius Town Manager Anthony Roberts said.

“But since the (police department) has been working various intersections throughout town the past several days, it has gotten better,” Roberts said in an email.

Travis said he went above the DOT division engineer’s office in Albemarle because the office hasn’t responded to the town’s concerns, beyond previously committing to shave a week off the project. The $6.2 million project is now scheduled to be finished in mid-October, Travis said.

Bobby Eaves, Blythe’s project manager on the Exit 28 work, referred questions about expediting the work to DOT’s Albemarle office.

DOT’s Albemarle office oversees state road projects in much of the Charlotte area.

Traffic is down to one lane in each direction on Catawba and West Catawba avenues at the bridge.

“We hope to have some extra lanes opened up the middle of September, and then another eastbound lane and some other extra lanes opened up in the westbound direction the first week of October,” Allen, the Charlotte area’s division construction engineer, said Friday.

The diverging diamond interchange will make bottlenecked Exit 28 safer with improved traffic flow, highway officials have said.