Dr. Traffic

Work stalls on Graham Street Extension project, making a 'mess of the area'

As a driver for mobile-app-driven transportation company Uber, James “Jim” O’Loughlin gets a good look at many of the city’s roads.

Nice job on repaving Fairview Road at SouthPark mall last fall, he said. One of his favorite things about that project: It started and continued through to completion, seemingly without interruption.

That’s not been the case with a much bigger road project through his community in northeast Charlotte.

The state started work in January 2014 on a decades-old plan to realign Mallard Creek Road to connect with Graham Street at Sugar Creek Road.

Work stalled in October 2015, and the project has made a mess of the area, O’Loughlin said.

“They tore up some people’s driveways. They cut down some trees,” he said. “We’re into the third year. It was supposed to be at the max a three-year project, and they’re not half done yet.”

Years ago N.C. Department of Transportation laid out the plan for a four-lane, median-divided thoroughfare to carry traffic from Graham Street in the center city to the University City area.

The $25.4 million is expected to extend Graham Street to Mallard Creek Road near Garrison Drive. That way Graham Street traffic from uptown would bypass congested, two-lane Sugar Creek Road in the Derita neighborhood.

Linking Graham Street with Mallard Creek Road would also improve access to Interstate 85, W.T. Harris Boulevard and I-485.

Getting above- and below-ground utilities relocated – fiber optics, electrical and copper – has been a slow process.

A meeting is planned at N.C. DOT Tuesday to try to figure out how to move forward. But there’s no quick way to resolve the delays, said Jordan-Ashley Walker, a DOT spokeswoman.

AT&T, Time-Warner Cable and Duke Energy are major players among the utility companies with properties in the area, but assorted other companies also have utility lines in the corridor, Walker said.

“There are so many different companies involved,” she said. “They buy and sell each other’s lines so quickly. We go in thinking it belongs to one company and it belongs to someone else.”

The biggest slowdown has been getting the fiber optics moved. “Harris Boulevard is a major corridor for fiber optics,” Walker said.

Walker says the project is about halfway completed, even if it doesn’t look that way from Mallard Creek Road. That’s because progress varies along the project from 5 percent complete to 95 percent complete.

When work does resume, the focus will be on storm drain work at W.T. Harris and Mallard Creek. Another priority is drainage work near Graham and Sugar Creek.

It’s just hard to say when that work might resume.