When Butler High School dismisses classes at the end of the school day, it might take students and staff longer to leave than expected, at least for the next few months.
This week, the North Carolina Department of Transportation will start work on a “superstreet” project at the intersection of N.C. 51 and Matthews-Mint Hill Road. When complete, motorists approaching N.C. 51 from Swaim Drive or Brandywine Drive will be restricted to right turns, requiring them to make a U-turn at a designated location in order to go the opposite direction.
The road will have a “bulb-out” – extra-wide pavement – at that spot to allow room to safely make a U-turn. It also will extend a second eastbound lane on N.C. 51 to Phillips Road.
N.C. DOT spokeswoman Jordan-Ashley Walker said superstreets are a cost-effective way to improve high-volume, congested intersections using a smaller footprint than a typical interchange.
During construction, the contractor is allowed to close lanes on N.C. 51 and Phillips Road between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The closure could affect school traffic, said an official.
“Afternoons could prove to be a challenge,” said Matthews Communications Director Jen Thompson. “They can’t start implementing any traffic control measures until 9 a.m., so the mornings should be okay.
“But there will be no detours, all traffic will be maintained on site, so folks need to leave early and allow plenty of time to get where they need to go.”
A Matthews Police Department representative indicated that the few months inconvenience would be worth it to improve the intersection and that small stretch of N.C. 51.
“Like all the construction projects that are going on in Matthews, it causes inconvenience in the short term, but it’s for long term gain,” said Sgt. Stason Tyrrell of the Matthews Police Department. “This superstreet will make the area safer and will help prepare for the expansion of N.C. 51 up to the future roundabout at N.C. 51 and Idlewild Road.”
Plans for the roundabout, labeled N.C. DOT project U-5115, are being finalized, and construction is expected to begin next summer.
Tyrrell said the Police Department would be working closely with Butler High and students and staff to make sure they understand that driving will be difficult during construction; however, since traffic already is congested in that area and speeds will be even slower due to construction traffic control, he doesn’t expect any serious accidents.
J.T. Russell and Sons is the contractor for the $823,663 project.
The town of Matthews is contributing $279,500, or 20 percent, of the cost of the project, with N.C. DOT funding the remaining balance.
The completion date for the project contract is Oct. 16.
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.