Cornelius road project causing first day of school headaches

by: Eric Philips Updated:

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CORNELIUS, N.C. —

Traffic was a nightmare in and around exit 28 in Cornelius Monday morning.

That's where the Department of Transportation is building a new diverging diamond at Catawba Avenue and Interstate 77.

With only one lane open in each direction, getting over the bridge was already difficult.

But add to that school buses and parents shuttling students back and forth, and the gridlock was worse. 

Brenda Opie had to drop off two students this morning.

"I left my house at 7:55 (a.m.) and got here at 8:45 (a.m.)," Opie said.  "I was just frustrated, but I was trying to stay patient."

It got so bad Cornelius police officers had to come out to direct traffic through red lights. 

According to Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis, the DOT was supposed to synchronize traffic lights to allow more vehicles to get through the green lights, but he said something went wrong.

Instead of longer green lights, they were shorter. 

So whereas 20 vehicles could normally get through at a time, only seven were getting through at a time making a bad situation worse.  That's when the police stepped in.

"Forty-five minutes into my drive they moved traffic along and I was able to go a really long distance in the last five minutes so that did save us," Opie said.

The mayor said workers made an adjustment to the traffic pattern to allow for up to 35 vehicles to get through at a time.

He said the DOT is continuing to tweak to make the traffic flow better.

Police will be on standby Tuesday and throughout the week in case they have to jump in and unclog traffic again.

School officials are encouraging parents to put their kids on the school buses instead of carpooling if they can, to cut down on traffic.

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