The southbound lanes of U.S. 29 in University City will reopen soon, but there’s little cause for celebration; after enjoying a brief period with all lanes open, motorists will face two-lane traffic for several more months.
The southbound lanes on U.S. 29/North Tryon Street over Mallard Creek were closed in the fall of 2014 and are expected to open this month as part of the first phase of the $4.4 million project.
But once the wider, southbound bridge reopens, the northbound bridge will close, and traffic will move to the southbound two lanes.
The closures are just south of U.S. 29 and Mallard Creek Church Road. Both bridges are being replaced with wider structures, and construction is scheduled to be completed by August 2016.
“N.C. DOT is working to open the southbound side of the bridge on May 22,” said Jordan-Ashley Walker, an N.C. DOT communications officer. “We are working with the contractor … to accelerate the project so that … date is feasible. Once the southbound side opens to traffic, we won’t close the northbound side right away. That closure will happen some time after Memorial Day weekend, but we don’t yet have a set date.”
The southbound bridge was closed for seven months, and the northbound bridge is scheduled to be closed as long.
Detour options direct traffic from Interstate 485 to Interstate 85; from West Mallard Creek Church Road to I-85 and University City Boulevard.
“We don’t anticipate that the closure of the northbound side will have a bigger impact than the southbound closure,” Jordan said.
Stuart Troutman, 61, lives in south Charlotte but commutes to University City. He said the N.C. DOT could do a better job of providing project updates.
Troutman travels from North Sharon Amity to W.T. Harris Boulevard on the way in to work but said he “escapes” traffic on the way home by taking I-85 into uptown, or taking Harris to Sharon Amity.
“I’ve learned from weekday commutes into and out of University City to avoid North Tryon/U.S. 29 as well as I-485,” he said. The N.C. DOT doesn’t “seem to care at all about notifying the general public. … The extent of their concern seems to be that they just throw a few basic notes on some website and leave it up to the public to find. If I were a UNCC employee, faculty member or student, I’d be furious.”
By closing this lane for so many months, Troutman said, the work has resulted in a far worse backups that spill onto Mallard Creek Church Road, a suggested detour route.
“The semi-alternate path is University City Boulevard/N.C. 49, but that just plunges southbound traffic right back into the mess where it merges with North Tryon, and that’s an ugly spectacle,” Troutman said.
Construction is scheduled to wrap up by August of 2016, according to the N.C. DOT.
The district engineer, as well as N.C. DOT’s administrative assistant, said they haven’t had specific complaints about lack of information or project updates, Walker said, and questions about the detour route have died down.
If residents or commuters have questions about a project, Walker said they can call N.C. DOT’s district office at 980-523-0000.
For real-time travel information, call 511, visit the N.C. DOT website or follow N.C. DOT on Twitter. To call the resident engineer, 980-523-0000.