South Charlotte

The road less traveled? Only for awhile between Matthews and Mint Hill

Though the intersection has only been closed for a short while, work is well underway on the construction of the roundabout at NC-51 and Idlewild Road. Businesses in the area are staying open during construction.
Though the intersection has only been closed for a short while, work is well underway on the construction of the roundabout at NC-51 and Idlewild Road. Businesses in the area are staying open during construction.

In a just a few months, it should be much easier to travel between Matthews and Mint Hill – by car and on foot.

If you live in the area, you are probably aware of the roundabout construction at N.C. 51 and Idlewild Road. The formerly signalized intersection, which handles more than 34,000 vehicles per day, was closed June 23 to begin construction of the roundabout. The businesses at that intersection will remain open, but expect customer traffic to be sharply curtailed while construction is going on.

Detours are posted well before the intersection with folks utilizing Interstate 485, Lawyers Road, Margaret Wallace Road and Sam Newell Road to travel between the towns.

The intersection will remain closed for about eight weeks. The N.C. Department of Transportation is requiring the contractor to have the road back open to traffic by Aug. 18, before school resumes. But work can continue, with partial lanes closures, until Sept. 8.

While the majority of the funding for the $1.8 million project is coming from the state, Matthews and Mint Hill are pitching in $220,000 each.

While commuters in the area will experience delays this summer, Mint Hill Town Engineer Steve Frey says the end result should make it worthwhile.

“It’s going to be a headache for a few months, but once it’s open you will be able to travel between the two towns without strange traffic backups in the middle of the day, and it will definitely take the edge off rush hour traffic,” said Frey.

But once the Idlewild/N.C. 51 roundabout is open, Mint Hill commuters will face another challenge as construction on the roundabout at Lawyers and Bain School Roads is expected to start this fall. While Thompson Road will not be included in the roundabout, the intersection of Lawyers Road and Thompson Road will be realigned, necessitating the closure of Thompson Road at that intersection for a few weeks.

NCDOT’s Jen Thompson says the Bain School/Lawyers Road roundabout project will be constructed with only partial lane closures during the process.

Coinciding with the roundabout construction is Mint Hill’s $544,000 sidewalk project that will add about 7,500 feet to town sidewalks. Frey, says that once the project is complete, there will be a sidewalk stretching from Mint Hill Veterans Park on N.C. 281 to N.C. 51, then from N.C. 51 to the roundabout at Idlewild and N.C. 51. At that point, pedestrians or bike riders can then cross over to the Matthews sidewalk system and travel to the intersection of N.C. 51 and North Trade Street in Matthews. The only area without a sidewalk will be the bridge on Matthews Township Parkway over U.S. 74, but Matthews Public Works Director C.J. O’Neill says the town hopes NCDOT will add sidewalks to the bridge when the expressway extends through Matthews.

Frey says the Mint Hill sidewalk construction should cause minimal delay, but some trees will have to come down. Crews cut more than a half dozen trees on N.C. 218 across from the Mint Hill Volunteer Fire Station to make room for the sidewalk. Frey said the shopping center where the trees were located had paved its parking lot all the way to the property line, so it was more economical to cut down the trees than to disturb the pavement. He says once sidewalk construction is finished, the town will replant trees or shrubs in the same area.

Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: melinda-johnston@carolina.rr.com.

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