Updated:CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
A stretch of Interstate 485 in south Charlotte will be widened sooner than initially planned, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
The widening project, in which the NCDOT will add an additional lane on the outer belt of I-485 between South Boulevard and Johnston Road, will begin in 2014. That’s a year earlier than the current work schedule, according to a new five-year NCDOT construction plan.
For the first time, the state is using information like traffic congestion and crash data in deciding how to prioritize projects. That contributed to the earlier start date of the widening project, as the section of interstate is one of the most congested in the area. To help ease traffic, the NCDOT also plans to build a flyover at the Johnston Road interchange. The outer belt will be accessible by a bridge crossing the interstate.
"Our big projects that we've all been concentrating on trying to deliver … I think we've finally gotten there,” NCDOT Engineer Barry Moose said.
Before, prioritization of projects was based on data like population size. Now, though, the formula will use a more common-sense approach. “Things like crash data, traffic congestion … but also we're looking at things like travel time savings for the public,” Moose said.
City Councilman Andy Dulin said that’s what city leaders have wanted for years.
“I'm pleased to say that the governor and DOT have heard us,” he said.
“When we unclench our fist and reach out and try to work with our state leaders, we can make progress,” Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx said.
Foxx said he thinks if the state continues setting road priorities based on factors like traffic patterns, Charlotte will continue to benefit.
Other projects in the area are moving along, as well. In early June, Charlotte-based Blythe Construction was awarded the contract to complete a five-mile leg of I-485 from N.C. 115 to I-85, south of Concord Mills. It's the last segment of I-485’s outer loop. Work on that project is expected to begin in late 2010 or early 2011.
The NCDOT’s five-year plan also includes funding to widen I-85 to eight lanes from Charlotte to Concord.
Previous Stories: June 3, 2010: Perdue Unveils Contract Award For I-485 Loop