Local road work moves along as summer nears

South Charlotte’s flurry of transportation projects are all nearing key stages, as crews continue work on Interstate 485, North Community House Road, John J. Delaney Drive, Rea Road, Ballantyne Commons Parkway and Elm Lane in separate projects that aim to improve traffic and safety in the Ballantyne area.

Crews are currently working on Rea Road, Elm Lane and the North Community House Road bridge in south Charlotte, among other projects.

Crews are currently working on Rea Road, Elm Lane and the North Community House Road bridge in south Charlotte, among other projects.

Congestion in south Charlotte has increased along with the population, as Ballantyne and the surrounding areas have turned from farmland in the early 1990s to a stretch of Mecklenburg County so dense with population and businesses that few large parcels of developable land now remain. And as more transplants have moved to Charlotte for jobs or the moderate climate, the demand for road improvements has grown.

The Bissell Companies, which manage the massive Ballantyne Corporate Park, has taken some of those improvements on itself. The company, led by Smoky Bissell, partnered with the county and city governments to pay for some road work currently underway in exchange for a portion of tax revenue at a later date, springboarding some projects off the back burner and into existence – including the ongoing John J. Delaney work and North Community House Road bridge.

Here’s a look at some of the current road projects currently underway in south Charlotte:

• The North Carolina Department of Transportation hopes to see the Johnston Road flyover open for traffic by early summer, according to NCDOT’s Brady McKenzie. That could mean as early as mid-June, as crews work to complete the project that will siphon drivers off northbound Johnston Road and dump them onto the inner loop of I-485. Drivers currently have to wait at a light to turn left onto the I-485 ramp causing back ups and delays, while the flyover will allow drivers to use the right-hand lane to continue moving up and over Johnston Road to connect with the ramp.

McKenzie expects to see a traffic switch on I-485 around the same time as the flyover opens in early summer. Drivers will be switched onto the new lanes of asphalt between Johnston Road and N.C. 51 so work can be done improving the old lanes. The traffic switch will extend past N.C. 51 roughly a month later, said McKenzie, who expects the switches to occur in the overnight hours to reduce delays on the interstate.

The North Community House Bridge project is on schedule to be completed by November or December, McKenzie said, and drivers can see the build up currently taking place slightly east of the Johnston Road interchange. The project is part of the I-485 widening, though being paid for by Bissell Companies as part of the company’s partnership with the city and county. Otherwise, the bridge wasn’t scheduled to be built until possibly as late as the year 2026, city leaders have said.

The bridge will connect the two ends of North Community House Road, allowing Ballantyne drivers to access homes and businesses in the area without having to traverse the congested section of Johnston Road at I-485. Meanwhile, the widening of I-485 – where two lanes are being added in each direction – also is on target to be completed by November or December. One of those lanes in each direction will eventually transform into a toll lane, and then toll lanes could be extended from Interstate 77 to Independence Boulevard starting in 2017, officials have said.

• Another Bissell Companies project is the work ongoing at John J. Delaney Drive and Johnston Road. Weather has delayed completion of the first phase of the project until late May.

The full project will add an additional right turn lane from Johnston Road onto John J. Delaney Drive and realign John J. Delaney Drive so a section of the road will turn directly into Brixham Hill Avenue and funnel drivers into the corporate park easier. The section of John J. Delaney Drive from Johnston Road to Ballantyne Corporate Place will be renamed Brixham Hill Avenue, while the southern portion of John J. Delaney Drive will be renamed Ballantyne Medical Place. The southeast portion behind Ballantyne Commons East will remain John J. Delaney Drive.

Drivers will no longer be able to make a left onto Conlan Circle when coming from Johnston Road – long ranked as one of the most dangerous intersections in the city by Charlotte Department of Transportation – but will have other options to reach businesses on Conlan Circle.

Drivers wanting to make a left going toward Johnston Road from Brixham Hill Avenue will be able to drive through the intersection without having to stop, while those wanting to turn right or left onto Brixham Hill Avenue from Ballantyne Medical Place will have to stop.

The second phase of the project will start once the first phase is complete. Intersection improvements at John J. Delaney Drive and Brixham Hill Avenue will be completed by late summer, according to an email from Clifton Coble, president of Bissell Development.

• Drivers on Rea Road will see a shift in focus in the next few weeks, as crews begin work on the median as part of the long-awaited project. The project, for which money was approved in the 2008 bond package, is widening the lanes on Rea Road and eliminating sight-line issues to make the busy stretch safer for pedestrians and drivers turning in and out of communities.

The contractor has completed the stretch between N.C. 51 and Carmel Estates and shifted southbound traffic onto the new pavement, though work is a little behind schedule, according to project manager Imad Fakhreddin. The city has asked the contractor to submit a new schedule for when work will be complete.

Shadow Pond Lane has been closed at Rea Road, and should reopen in a few weeks, Fakhreddin said, when traffic will be shifted to the eastern side of the project so contractors can start work on Carmel Estates. The road will be cut down about three to four feet to match with the new Rea Road, where crews have cut hills and filled valleys to make the road more even and allow drivers to see further into the distance and stop in time for turning vehicles or pedestrians.

Fakhreddin hopes the work is finished by the fall, though the
contractor’s new schedule could change that timeline when the city receives it in the next few weeks.

• Safety improvements are the key addition to the Ballantyne Commons Parkway at Elm Lane project. The project will include left turn lanes and a westbound right turn lane on Ballantyne Commons and northbound and southbound left and right turn lanes on Elm. It also will include improvements for pedestrians, including pedestrian islands on Ballantyne Commons and bicycle lanes, as well as
medians.

The improvements and medians will extend on Ballantyne Commons from Ballantyne Trace Court to Rea Road, and on Elm Lane from Indigo Row to just south of Millwright Lane.

The contractor is currently working on storm drainage, curb, gutter and sidewalk on the west side of Elm Lane between Millwright Lane and north of Williams Pond Lane, according to project manager Leslie Bing. The installation of storm drainage, curb, gutter and sidewalk along St. Matthew Catholic Church’s frontage is expected to continue until the end of May, Bing
said.

The project is on target to be completed in January 2015.

 

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