Ballantyne waits for word on Community House bridge

The Ballantyne area may not know any time soon when the North Community House Road bridge will be built over Interstate 485.

The Bissell Companies upheld its end of the bargain, rushing to finish widening and other improvements on North Community House by the end of 2012. Now, area drivers must wait and see when Lane Construction opts to build the bridge as part of the company’s contract to widen I-485 in south Mecklenburg and build the Johnston Road flyover. Bissell Companies leaders would like the bridge to come sooner rather than later, but that decision is out of their hands.

“All environmental reports have been done,” said Clifton Coble, president of Bissell Development, in an email. Bissell Companies is leading the effort on millions of dollars of road improvements in Ballantyne through a partnership with Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. “Lane Construction has begun reviewing the plans for the bridge to price,” Coble said. “We will have more information in several months.”

Charlotte officials planned to build the bridge at some point, but it wasn’t expected to happen in the near future. Bissell Companies will pay for the bridge, as well as a number of other area road improvements, getting the projects done ahead of any schedule the city could have hoped to meet if doing the road work.

“The completion of the North Community House bridge is particularly important,” said Warren Cooksey, the area’s representative on Charlotte City Council, at a meeting in September 2011. “Our local Long Range Transportation Plan ranks that project very high in relieving congestion and improving safety, but at best it would have been built sometime between 2016 and 2025. The agreement with Bissell Companies accelerates construction so that the bridge could be finished as early as 2014.”

Coble estimates 20,000 vehicles will use the bridge daily, allowing drivers to bypass congestion at the intersection of I-485 and Johnston Road. “It’s vitally important,” he said. “The improvements will alleviate traffic on (Johnston) going north and south,” which in turn will help employees of Bissell Companies’ Ballantyne Corporate Park.

Bissell Companies proposed the package of road improvements in early 2011 to accompany growth plans at the park. Those plans include the addition of 1 million square feet of office space, as well as 200 new hotel rooms and 600 residential units. The road improvements are needed, company officials said at the time, so as to not overstrain the area’s infrastructure.

The Community House road improvements and bridge should cost around $8.5 million, according to early estimates. Coble couldn’t say this week if the Community House project was still in line with that estimate since there’s more work to be done.

The Bissell Companies will pay around $11 million for all the projects – which includes improvements at John J. Delaney at Brixham Hill Drive and Johnston Road at Ballantyne Commons Parkway – getting some or all of the company’s money back through a portion of increased city and county tax revenues tied to the park’s expansion.

So far, Coble said, results have been positive.

“At a recent Ballantyne Breakfast Club meeting, several residents thanked us for the improvements and look forward to the bridge and other upcoming improvements,” Coble said. The improved stretch of Community House includes direct access to the Mecklenburg County greenway system and safer access for cyclists and pedestrians.

Once the bridge is built, Bissell Companies will connect the north end of Community House with Endhaven Lane, adding a stoplight, and finally connecting the southern leg of Community House with Johnston Road.

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