Access to the Proposed Express Lanes
Access to and from the express lanes will be provided at three locations:
- Independence Boulevard, east of I-277
- Albemarle Road (N.C. 27)
- Independence Boulevard, west of Wallace Lane
In the morning hours the proposed express lane will operate in the inbound (westbound) direction only. Motorists on Independence Boulevard will be able to enter the proposed express lane at either Wallace Lane or Albemarle Road (N.C. 27). To access the inbound express lane at Wallace Lane, Independence Boulevard motorists will merge left to enter the express lane from the general traffic lanes. To access the inbound express lane at Albemarle Road, Albemarle Road motorists will merge left and then follow a special ramp to reach the express lane.
All traffic in the inbound express lane will be required to exit that lane and merge with the general traffic lanes prior to reaching the I-277 interchange.
In the afternoon hours the proposed express lane will operate in the outbound (eastbound) direction only. Motorists on Independence Boulevard will be able to enter the proposed express lane at only one location, just east of I-277. To access the outbound express lane, Independence Boulevard motorists will merge left to enter the express lane from the general traffic lanes. Motorists will be able to exit the proposed express lane at either Albemarle Road (N.C. 27) or Wallace Lane. To exit the outbound express lane at Albemarle Road, motorists will exit right and follow a special ramp to reach Albemarle Road. To exit the outbound express lane at Wallace Lane exit, motorists in the express lane will merge right to enter the general traffic lanes.
All traffic in the outbound express lane will be required to exit the express lane and merge with the general traffic lanes near Wallace Lane.
Options being considered for Accessing I-277 from the Inbound (Westbound) Express Lane
Due to the short distance between the western end of the proposed express lane and the I-277 interchange, two options are being considered for access from the proposed express lane to I-277 in the morning hours:
- Access to both I-277 Northbound (Brookshire Freeway) and I-277 Southbound (Belk Freeway)
- Access to only I-277 Southbound (Belk Freeway)
Travel Information for Motorists
Dynamic message signs will be installed as part of the project to give motorists the information they will need in deciding whether to use the proposed express lanes or the general traffic lanes. This information will include estimated travel time to upcoming interchanges and the cost of using the express lanes.
Express Lane Connections
The express lanes proposed on Independence Boulevard as part of this project (STIP No. U-5526) will connect with the express lanes proposed on Independence Boulevard to the southeast (STIP No. U-2509), the express lanes proposed on I-485 to the south/southwest (STIP No. I-5507) and the toll road proposed under the Monroe Connector/Bypass project (STIP No. R-3329/R-2559) to the southeast. This linkage will result in a seamless system of express and toll lanes along Independence Boulevard (U.S. 74) and I-485 south and east of Charlotte. These projects are described in more detail below in the “Coordination with Other Projects” section.
Coordination with Other Projects
The easternmost 2.0-mile segment of the project is currently being improved under STIP No. U-209 B. That project includes upgrading Independence Boulevard to an eight-lane route with interchanges at Sharon Amity Road and Idlewild Road and a grade-separated crossing at Conference Drive. STIP No. U-209 B includes the construction of one bus lane in each direction in the median of Independence Boulevard and is anticipated to be completed in the fall of 2016.
Preliminary studies and coordination are underway for a project that will improve the 6.3-mile segment of Independence Boulevard to the east (from Conference Drive to I-485), STIP No. U-2509. That project calls for upgrading Independence Boulevard to provide additional capacity and safety. This project is anticipated to include upgrading Independence Boulevard to a route with interchanges or grade-separated crossings at major intersecting roads. It will also include the construction of express lanes along Independence Boulevard.
The proposed Monroe Connector/Bypass project (STIP No. R-3329/R-2559) calls for constructing a toll road on new location from U.S. 74 at I-485 in eastern Mecklenburg County to U.S. 74 near the Town of Marshville in Union County.
Preliminary design and environmental studies are underway for a project that will improve I-485 from I-77 south of Charlotte to U.S. 74 east of Charlotte, STIP No. I-5507. That project calls for adding one express lane in each direction.