CORNELIUS — Unexpected daytime lane closures from construction led to traffic delays along Catawba Avenue recently, but commuters likely won’t encounter any more until summer.
In the last two weeks, the town was notified construction for the Diverging Diamond Interchange along Exit 28 of I-77 would close lanes during the day for up to six days. They wound up closing just two days each week, but still caused traffic.
“They were pouring concrete into the expanding approach transition – the area from the bridge to the road – and they needed time for the concrete to cure during the day,” Cornelius Project Manager Tyler Beardsley said.
Those daytime closures should be over for now, but contractor Blythe Construction is allowed nighttime lane closures seven days a week from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m.
In the multimillion-dollar N.C. Department of Transportation project, traffic patterns will change from a standard diamond interchange to a DDI, which forces two directions of traffic to temporarily cross to the left side of the road while on the bridge over I-77.
This allows for vehicles to turn onto I-77 ramps without stopping. Plus, the proposed design offers better aesthetics the town hopes will bring notice to Cornelius.
During last week’s unexpected closure, Beardsley and many other travelers noticed longer delays, especially westbound from N.C. 115 to the interstate. However, Beardsley said the second set of closures during the first week of March were better.
“We put calls out and got it on our Twitter feed to get people to avoid the area,” Beardsley said.
Anytime there are lane closures, drivers should anticipate finding alternate routes. They include going to Exit 25 or 30 when on the interstate. In town, both Beardsley and Town Manager Anthony Roberts recommended taking Westmoreland Road.
Town staff have been notified Catawba and West Catawba Avenue could see lane closures around-the-clock up to 150 days this summer. No exact start date has been given.
“I don’t know how we’ll prepare other than get the word out,” Beardsley said. “It will be a unique closure. Next time, we’ll have a new traffic pattern. We don’t know how that will function. We are still expecting delays, but that might be better than this last time. We’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.”
The DDI construction project is slated for completion by November, despite a late start because of inclement weather.
Beardsley asks that residents “be patient” because “this is all part of the growing pains.” He reminds them to still frequent local businesses in the area.
“This is a DOT project,” he said. “They are administering the contracts and oversight. We don’t have a whole lot of say.”