Charlotte - Throughout 2016, the N.C. Department of Transportation made great strides in the Charlotte area toward achieving several of the goals outlined in Governor Pat McCrory's 25-Year Vision for transportation, including improving safety, enhancing mobility and reducing congestion. Significant progress occurred on several projects throughout Division 10, which includes Anson, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Stanly and Union counties.
"As we reflect on 2016, the division has a sense of pride over its accomplishments and the progress made to fulfill Governor McCrory's vision of improved connections and infrastructure," says Division Engineer Louis Mitchell. "The transportation challenges that the region is tackling will have a positive impact on economic opportunity and quality of life."
One of the department's critical projects to increase capacity and reduce congestion was the widening of a 1.6-mile section of Independence Boulevard in Charlotte from a six-lane divided roadway to include four general purpose lanes and one express lane. Traffic will move through this area more efficiently with construction of bridges at Sharon Amity Road, Idlewild Road and Conference Drive, along with the removal of traffic signals between uptown Charlotte and W.T. Harris Boulevard. The bridge at Sharon Amity Road should open to traffic in early 2017 and the entire project should be completed by summer 2017.
In Cabarrus County, the widening of I-85 continued with a traffic shift in November to new inside lanes, allowing demolition of the existing outside lanes to get underway. The $197 million project will add two additional travel lanes in each direction from north of N.C. 73 (Exit 55) to north of Lane Street (Exit 63) with interchange improvements at U.S. 29/601, Dale Earnhardt Boulevard and Lane Street. The existing at-grade crossing at Winecoff School Road in Kannapolis will also be eliminated. This project will tie in with another project awarded in March to widen I-85 in Rowan County from north of Lane Street to north of the U.S. 29/601 connector.
The George Liles Parkway project in Cabarrus County moved along this year, shifting traffic in January to a new alignment between U.S. 29 and Roberta Road. The completed project will feature a four-lane divided highway between Weddington Road and Roberta Road with a Single Point Urban Interchange (SPUI) at U.S. 29, a design used to move large volumes of traffic in urban areas.
Several milestones were reached under the Piedmont Improvement Program, a series of railroad and roadway projects aimed to make train travel safer and more reliable.
The Grier Road Grade Separation in Charlotte opened to traffic in July, which eliminated the risk of train-vehicle collisions by removing the street-level crossing at Newell-Hickory Grove Road.
Vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians are now able to safely cross railroad tracks in Harrisburg thanks to the opening of a new bridge in August. The project extended Roberta Road over the rail line and closed an at-grade crossing at Robinson Church Road.
Transportation agencies in August also recognized progress on the Sugar Creek Road Grade Separation project, which will improve safety in one of the state's busiest rail corridors. This area sees more than 30 Norfolk Southern Railway trains and eight Amtrak trains daily. This project will eliminate the risk of train-vehicle collisions, as well as traffic delays in the area. Construction started in spring 2016 and should last about two years.
Wildflower plantings in Charlotte earned Division 10 an award for the Best Regional Wildflower Planting in the Central Division. The Maximilian Sunflowers will be hard to miss this spring at the intersection of N.C. 24 (W.T. Harris Boulevard) and Old Concord Road.
The division also accepted a Blue Star Memorial Marker in October, sponsored by the Charlotte Council of Garden Clubs and District III of the North Carolina Daughters of the American Revolution. The marker is located at the Welcome Center on I-77 North in southern Mecklenburg County. The Blue Star Memorial Program honors the service of the men and women of the U.S. armed forces.
“Division 10 has the largest population and highest traffic volume in the State of North Carolina,” continues Mitchell. “Planning, building and preserving multi-modal transportation solutions serve as the back bone to economic growth and continued national prominence as a preferred living destination.“
The department expects to kick off several important projects throughout the region in 2017. In February, the state will award a contract to enhance safety at the intersection of U.S. 74 and Stanback Ferry Road in Wadesboro with a longer left turn lane and other improvements.
In Concord, contractors will bid on a project to widen a 2.6-mile section of Derita Road between Concord Mills Boulevard and Poplar Tent Road. This project will include two travel lanes in each direction with other amenities to improve mobility near the state’s busiest mall.
The department is also scheduled to award a contract in June to resurface a 3.5-mile segment of I-277 between U.S. 74 and Brevard Street in uptown Charlotte, giving motorists a smoother ride.