With a resurgent economy and ambitious plans to redevelop its traditional town center, Huntersville is moving forward with a key downtown road project that had been shelved for nearly a decade.
Huntersville commissioners voted Nov. 2 to allow the town to proceed with a $9 million project aimed at providing an alternative north-south route to a regularly congested, 1-mile stretch of N.C. 115, also called Old Statesville Road.
The so-called two-way pair would divert some N.C. 115 traffic onto Main Street from connections at Mt. Holly-Huntersville Road to the south and Fourth Street to the north.
The town sees the project as the most-practical alternative to widening the two-lane N.C. 115 through a downtown where existing buildings already crowd the road and where planners are trying to encourage more pedestrian access.
“It doesn’t make sense to have a four-lane divided highway downtown, so we’ll do it this way,” Huntersville Planning Director Jack Simoneau explained. “We need to accommodate traffic, but it needs to be on terms that are consistent with how we want our downtown to develop and redevelop.”
The two-way pair project, in addition to moving traffic more efficiently, also has the potential to turn Main Street back into a main street.
N.C. 115 has become the busiest downtown road while Huntersville’s traditional Main Street, running parallel to Old Statesville just a block to the east, has become little more than a side street with a few businesses in the small clump of buildings that remain from what was the center of commerce during the town’s heyday as a textile producer.
Among the Main Street buildings razed decades ago was the town’s train station, another key driver of economic activity until the middle of the 20th century.
“Those businesses become more viable (with the downtown road project),” Town Manager Greg Ferguson said. “It helps energize what we’ve got on Main Street.”
And, Ferguson added, what the town has coming.
The town expects to start work soon on Veterans Park, at the corner of Main and Maxwell streets in the heart of Huntersville’s traditional downtown and at the midpoint of the two-way pair.
The park, which will include a 6,000-square-foot community events center, activity field, performance venue and military memorial, will become the home of town events that now are held on a grassy lot next to the Town Center complex a block away on N.C. 115.
With the two-way pair, drivers coming north into Huntersville on N.C. 115 would have the option to link to Main Street at Mt. Holly-Huntersville Road, while motorists coming south into town on N.C. 115 will be able to access Main Street near the existing Fourth Street.
A primary goal of the new traffic pattern is to give drivers an option for avoiding the often-congested intersection of N.C. 115 and Gilead Road. That will be especially beneficial for drivers looking to head east on Huntersville-Concord Road from N.C. 115, or trying to go north or south on N.C. 115 from Huntersville-Concord.
The original plans were for roundabouts at both Main Street connectors on N.C. 115, but that could change, Simoneau said.
“The goal is to not have to make 90-degree turns at the access points,” he explained.
Ferguson said the town has acquired the necessary property for the northern connector and is close to wrapping up land purchases for the southern access.
The project will be financed with $4 million in town bond funds and $5 million in “bonus-allocation” funding tied to the N.C. Department of Transportation’s public-private project that will add toll lanes to a 26-mile stretch of I-77, including through the Lake Norman area. The bonus-allocation dollars are for projects in areas directly impacted by the toll-lane project.
John Deem is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.