CHARLOTTE — It’s the exit on Interstate 277 that causes drivers to hold their breath and say a prayer.
Exit 3A is challenging, no matter what time of day you are using it. Upgrades are planned for the exit but construction isn’t anticipated until after 2030.
“It’s a hazard and it does not move people effectively,” Councilman Larken Egleston said.
The problems surrounding this exit aren’t new. In 2006, former Eyewitness News Reporter Jim Bradley reported on the exit ramp. The city and state engineers in 2006 told Bradley the road design “wouldn’t even be considered today.”
“Many of the drivers coming off of I-277 end up crossing all three lanes of traffic so they can turn right up there on North Davidson,” Bradley explained. “The problem is, many of the drivers in [the 12th Street] lanes want to get where [the exiting drivers] were so they can get on to 277. The result is everybody stops more often than not, including the drivers that want to go straight through.”
(WATCH: Jim Bradley’s 2006 report on I-277 exit ramp nightmare)
While approaching Exit 3A, drivers have to merge to the right while drivers entering I-277 from Independence Blvd have to merge to the left. Once drivers hit the exit ramp, they have to merge right into oncoming traffic from 12th Street while some 12th Street drivers attempt to merge left to enter I-277.
The exit and entrance ramps to I-277 are separated by just one block.
The sentiments from elected officials in 2006 remain the same today.
“Outdated design,” former Charlotte City Councilman James Mitchell said in 2006. “It truly does not work for the traffic here in this great city.”
“Trying to come off of 277 and take a right on Davidson Street is impossible, should be illegal and should not be attempted,” Councilman Larken Egleston said.
As much as city officials hate the configuration, changes are largely out of their hands.
“It’s not a city road,” Egleston said. “We don’t have the ability to do something unilaterally and I don’t think there is an easy solution to it.”
According to NCDOT, changes are down the road but it will be a while before improvements are made.
Right of way acquisition is funded for improvements from Kenilworth to Davidson Streets, according to NCDOT spokesperson Jen Thompson. Right of way acquisition isn’t scheduled to start until 2029. Construction isn’t anticipated until after 2030. Improvement for the I-277 stretch from Davidson to Graham streets is currently competing for funding.
“We need to focus on transportation, and that money just isn’t coming from the state,” Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt said.
The improvements are so far away that the NCDOT can’t say exactly what they will be. Eiselt said any enhancements to the rollercoaster that is I-277 will help.
“I feel like I’m taking my life into my hands every time,” she said. “It’s just like an obstacle course.”
The decades-long problem may take another decade to solve.
(WATCH: Charlotte leaders to vote on pedestrian trail over I-277)
Cox Media Group