Lake Norman & Mooresville

Funding cut for interstate improvements

Under a new procedure this year, funding for the second phase of the Interstate 40/Interstate 77 interchange improvements in Statesville has been bumped downward on the state’s transportation priorities list, potentially delaying completion of the project.

The new rankings were approved at the Aug. 20 meeting of the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization.

Statesville’s Mayor Pro Tem Michael Johnson, a voting member of the organization, joined his colleagues in approving the new list. “I was asked by several city councilmen if voting no on the list would accomplish anything, and I said, ‘frankly, no, because we’re not about to reverse the vote, and there are some other good projects on that list which will benefit the city,’” he said.

Although he voted for the new ranking, Johnson not giving up on getting the funding back for phase II. “I’d like to see it restored ... but I also suggested to CRPTO and the (North Carolina Department of Transportation) that the second phase be broken up into smaller pieces in an attempt to qualify for regional funds and keep the project moving.”

The I-40/I-77 improvement project was unveiled in 2007. Due to the size of the project, it was divided into two phases: The initial $89 million phase, currently under construction by Zachry Construction Co. of San Antonio, Texas, which will add a westbound collector lane on I-40 to facilitate traffic exiting to and entering from I-77.

In addition, significant improvements are being made to all of the ramps at I-77, as well as the U.S. 64 bridge, the U.S. 21 interchange and the Radio Road bridge on I-40. The work is scheduled to be finished in March 2017.

The second phase, estimated to cost about $168 million, would include flyover lanes to carry exiting traffic, as well as the widening of both I-40 and I-77 to eight lanes each through the intersection area. There is no timetable for phase II.

The I-40/I-77 interchange is a major junction between the third- and 22nd-longest interstates in the country. It currently handles over 120,000 vehicles daily, including many tractor-trailer trucks. The daily traffic count is expected to surpass 200,000 vehicles by the year 2030.