CORNELIUS – Here’s an important traffic alert for this weekend: Catawba Avenue will be closed over I-77 for 32 hours, from midnight tonight (Friday, June 27), to 8am Sunday, June 29, so contractors can convert the overpass to a new “diverging diamond” pattern. Exit 28 ramps from I-77 north and south will remain open, but drivers will only be able to turn right off the highway. Read on for information about the closure and detours.
The work is part of a $5.4 million NC Department of Transportation project to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion onto and off the highway.
During the 32-hour shutdown, all lanes of Catawba Avenue will be closed to cars, bikes and pedestrians. Both northbound and southbound ramps from I-77 will remain open, but for right turns only, which means some traffic may need to take detours north or south to cross over the highway. (See below.)
The work will allow contractor Blythe Construction to reconfigure the roadway into the “diverging diamond” crossover pattern. When the bridge reopens Sunday morning, the new pattern will be in place, with only one lane open in both directions for the next four to five months.
Once most of the work is done, the Town of Cornelius is planning a related project to improve the appearance of the overpass, making it a “gateway” to town. Plans call for a nautical-themed design with decorative bridge abutments, 5-foot lanterns at four corners, a central pedestrian walkway on the bridge, and trees and other plantings.
Businesses on either side of the highway at Exit 28 have been worried about the closing, but as more information has come out, many are less concerned, Bill Russell, CEO of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, said Thursday.
“There are concerns,” Russell said. “A couple of weeks ago … I just got in my car and went to several prominent strip malls and shopping centers … and went door to door. I was surprised at the number of business owners and managers who did not know about the closing.”
The situation has improved, thanks to alerts from the Town of Cornelius and the NCDOT, as well as coverage in local news outlets over the past few weeks. The chamber and Cornelius town officials have convened two public meetings in the past two months and Russell himself has gone door-to-door at shopping centers around Exit 28 to make sure that business owners and managers know about the closing.
“We’ve reached out,” Russell said. “If at this point you don’t know about it, you are just living under a rock.”
During the closing, drivers approaching the I-77 overpass from the east or west, on Catawba Avenue, will be able to make right turns only at the highway on-ramps. Meanwhile, traffic coming off the highway will be limited to right turns only.
Here are suggested detours:
- West of I-77: Traffic will be detoured to I-77 South to N.C. 73 (Exit 25). Motorists can turn left at the exit ramp, cross the bridge and turn left to I-77 north. At Exit 28, drivers will able to turn right onto Catawba Avenue. Drivers farther west on Catawba Avenue also can use Westmoreland Road to Statesville Road/US 21, then north to Catawba Avenue.
- East of I-77: Traffic will be detoured to I-77 North to Griffith Street (Exit 30). Motorists can turn left at the exit ramp, cross the bridge and turn left to I-77 South. At Exit 28, you’ll be able to turn right onto Catawba Avenue. Drivers also can turn south on US 21/Statesville Road, then right on Westmoreland Road to West Catawba Avenue.
Meanwhile, the Charlotte Area Transit System’s Village Rider bus will continue to operate during the construction, following a modified route between the east and west sides of the highway during the road closure.
In an alert Thursday, CATS said:
As a result of this closure, Route 97 will be on detour between Westmoreland Road and Statesville Road. All bus stops on Catawba Avenue north of Westmoreland Road and west of Interstate 77 will not be served by regular fixed-route service during the weekend road closure. Customers using these temporarily closed stops are encouraged to call 704-336-RIDE (7433) in advance of this weekend to arrange deviated service. When calling, customers are reminded to arrange both their deviated pick-up, as well as their return trip, or deviated drop-off. Customers boarding at a regular stop still served during the weekend closure may request a deviated drop-off from the driver, in order to be dropped off near a closed stop.
This weekend brings a variety of events in Cornelius, including the Cornelius PARC department’s Symphony in the Park concert and fireworks. That’s still on for Saturday, June 28, at Bailey Road Park, with gates opening at 6pm. See more in our Events Calendar.
DISRUPTIONS THROUGH NOV. 1
Most major construction on the DDI is scheduled to be completed Nov. 1, 2014. Until then, traffic will be limited to just one lane in both directions.
Blythe Construction will need another six months or so to complete minor work on the road portion of the project.
When the project is done, drivers on Catawba Avenue will cross over to the left side of the road, which will allow smoother, uninterrupted access to I-77 in either direction. The redesigned overpass also will have a central pedestrian walkway and bike path.
Meanwhile, the town will also be picking a contractor later this year for aesthetic improvements, including a signature mast and cabling structure, landscaping and decorative bridge abutments. That work will continue into 2015.
The bridge redesign has some residents and business leaders excited, including the chamber’s Russell.
“It is going to be a majestic interchange,” Russell said. “Catawba Avenue is Main Street Lake Norman. I don’t mean to take away from Mooresville or Davidson, but we need an interchange that shows the grandeur of the area.”
RELATED COVERAGE AND LINKS
See the Town of Cornelius information page about the project, on Cornelius.org.
June 10, 2014, “Town officials address concerns about Exit 28 lane closures” – coverage of this week’s public meeting on the road plan.
June 9, 2014, “Meeting Wed. to answer questions about Exit 28 overpass closure.” – includes the latest information from the NCDOT.
See an NCDOT Video showing how to drive through a diverging diamond interchange.
Town of Cornelius DDI project web page,
Past coverage of the DDI project on CorneliusNews.net.