A little more than a week after the opening of a long-awaited connector road that was built to ease traffic congestion north of downtown Mooresville, motorists are using the stretch as if it were part of the road network here for years, town officials say.
Connector Road, the east-west road connecting Cornelius and Mazeppa roads, has helped smooth the flow of freight trucks passing through town, creating a more direct route to the Mooresville Business Park, officials say. As a result, traffic is less likely to pile up at certain intersections along two major thoroughfares.
“It’s a long day coming,” Deputy Town Manager Ryan Rase said, speaking before a ribbon-cutting ceremony late last month that marked its opening.
Indeed, while the two-lane stretch extends only about three-fourths of a mile between U.S. 21 and N.C. 115, it took several years to materialize. Plans for it date to the late 1990s, and it was included as part of the Mooresville Comprehensive Transportation Plan that was adopted in 2008 and updated two years ago.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Since its opening on Oct. 30, at least some trucks passing through town are moving in a less circuitous route between Interstate 77 and the Mazeppa Road industrial park, as they are now able to bypass a succession of traffic lights along N.C. 150 and N.C. 115.
Before that, they had to pass through nearly a dozen lights, depending on their route, Rase said. That often caused bottlenecks at intersections including the one at N.C. 150 and I-77 Exit 36, just west of town.
“This is a really exciting day for us,” Mayor Miles Atkins said before speaking at the ceremony, under sunny skies. He was among other officials there, including Nick Tennyson, the state Department of Transportation’s chief deputy secretary; the executive director of the Mooresville-South Iredell Economic Development Corp., Robert Carney; and state Sen. David Curtis, who represents the southern part of Iredell County.
Asked why the connector took so long to build, Atkins said the town had spent time seeking funding and acquiring rights of way, as well as having it designed.
The road cost about $1.9 million, which the town will pay for largely out of some $20 million in general obligation bond funds for transportation projects that voters approved in a referendum last spring. The rest will come from state funds, about $750,000, one-third of it from the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Cutting through a largely residential area, the road drew objections from several residents. At the same time, companies in the nearby industrial park strongly supported it, town officials said.
To make way for it, the town negotiated with landowners to acquire rights of way, taking ownership of only one property by eminent domain, said Jon Young, an engineer for the town who oversaw the project.
Beyond smoothing traffic flow, the opening of the road could quicken the pace at which N.C. DOT builds a planned I-77 interchange at Cornelius Road, officials say. Last month, commissioners agreed to have the town set aside some $2.2 million to help pay for the interchange, Exit 38, hoping that the contribution will also speed up a project that is not expected to begin anytime soon and could take five to 10 years to complete, Young said. That money could also come from bond funds, he added.
And it comes amid plans for another east-west connector, this one to the south, that would possibly run between the Langtree Road-N.C. 115 intersection and Coddle Creek Highway, or N.C. 3. The connector is included in the town’s comprehensive transportation plan, though it is undetermined whether the town or the state would fund its construction.
For the Cornelius-Mazeppa connector, construction took a little less than a year, beginning in December of last year. It involved building turn lanes at each end of the road.
At the Oct. 30 ceremony, its opening did not go unnoticed.
“As soon as we pulled those barricades back, it was like the road has been open for a hundred years,” Young said, citing a line of motorists waiting to drive on it.
Jake Flannick is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org