Help for U.S. 29 intersection

The city plans to reduce chronic traffic snarls at Poplar Tent Road and U.S. 29 by eliminating left turns and instead directing left-turn motorists to U-turns just outside the existing intersection.

The new "superstreet" design will be only the third of its kind in the world, said Troy Peoples, vice president of transportation for Stantec Consulting, which has offices across North America and is designing the project. Peoples retired in 2004 as the N.C. Department of Transportation's state traffic engineer.

While Michigan has had versions of superstreets for about 50 years, Peoples said, the only communities with traffic signals at their U-turns are in Chapel Hill and the Brunswick County community of Leland, near Wilmington.

Chapel Hill motorists saw time spent in traffic reduced by 60percent when the state created a superstreet intersection on U.S. 15/501 in January 2008, said Jim Dunlop, the N.C. Department of Transportation's congestion management engineer.

The U-turns redirect traffic flow, creating what is essentially an elongated traffic circle.

Peoples, Dunlop and other officials introduced the planned improvements for the Poplar Tent Road-U.S. 29 intersection at a citizens informational workshop at Concord Fire Station No. 3 on Warren C. Coleman Boulevard Thursday night.

The improvements won't claim any homes or businesses, because work can be done in existing rights-of-way, officials said.

Work will take only about three months, beginning next spring and finishing that summer, officials said.

A federal CMAQ (congestion mitigation and air quality) grant will pay 80percent of the project's estimated $1million cost, and Concord will pay the rest, Concord Transportation Director Joe Wilson said.

Removing left turns from the busy intersection will also eliminate the potential for various kids of wrecks, including head-on collisions, according to city officials and Betsy Watson, the project's engineer for Stantec Consulting.

The city developed conceptual designs of the proposed improvements and presented them at the workshop. A three-week public comment period will extend through July 22. A final design will be developed after that.

The planning and design studies will be summarized in an environmental document that will include a description of the proposed improvements, the reasons they're needed and any potential effects of the project.