Despite assurances that traffic crossing Interstate 77 at Exit 28 would flow smoother, Cornelius officials rejected a state DOT consultants “preferred option” that would have eliminated left turns for motorists on Torrence Chapel Road and Liverpool Parkway at West Catawba Avenue.
The rejection followed a lengthy public hearing in January; close to 30 residents voiced objections to the proposed left turn prohibitions.
Everyone agrees improvements to the Torrence Chapel/Catawba intersection are needed to speed the flow of traffic across the Exit 28 diverging diamond intersection.
“This plan defies logic,” said Cornelius resident Rick Monroe whose remarks were typical of those who spoke. “Sooner or later, they’re going to have us going to Lincolnton to make left-hand turns.”
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The plan Monroe referred to would have required motorists wishing to turn left onto West Catawba Avenue to pass through the intersection, go several blocks to a new traffic circle, reverse direction, go back and then turn right onto Catawba. The town commissioners didn’t seem impressed either.
“You’re going to have winners and losers with this plan,” said Commissioner Dave Gilroy. “The big-time losers are going to be the people traveling on Torrence Chapel as well as the local merchants.”
After hearing the comments from the audience and his own board, Mayor Chuck Travis asked the DOT and its traffic engineering consulting firm, WSP/Parsons-Brinckerhoff, to continue working on improvements for the intersection, but without any left turn restrictions.
Where that leaves the project is anyone’s guess. Funds for the improvements were coming from Bonus Allocation Money offered by the state for projects in municipalities where I-77 toll lane construction has taken place. The project cost had been pegged at $ 5million and the funding clock is ticking.
“Constructions funds for this project must be authorized by the DOT prior to July 1, 2020,” said Assistant Town Manager Andrew Grant. Grant also said the funds could be shifted to other projects “but the region’s transportation planning organization, as well as the DOT, would need to agree to the shifting of those funds.”
The aspects of the plan that the town agreed with were the addition of traffic circles at the intersection of Knox Road and Torrence Chapel, Torrence Chapel and the entrance to The Shops At The Fresh Market, and Liverpool Parkway at Chartwell Center Drive. The plan also included the addition of a right turn exit lane on West Catawba for those wishing to access southbound I-77.
The plan did not include any improvements to Knox Road, and Travis also asked the consultant to address that. It is likely that Knox Road will absorb additional traffic in the future, and in its current configuration, it is a two lane road with no turning lanes.
The road is also used frequently by pedestrians and bicyclists from nearby residential developments such as Blue Stone Harbor.
Dave Vieser is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.