CONCORD, N.C. - Credit: Independent Tribune
Getting in and out of Concord Mills' parking lot is one of the worst traffic problems in Cabarrus County, according to city officials who have proposed a plan to improve the mess.
Exit 49 draws 20 million visits per year. Much of that traffic gets backed up onto the interstate and clogs Concord Mills and Bruton Smith boulevards. The daily traffic count on Concord Mills Boulevard is about 42,000 cars, which is about half the number of cars using Interstate 85 in the same location each day, making it the most congested corridor in Cabarrus County, according to Concord city officials.
Now local officials think they know one way to improve the traffic mess.
Concord transportation officials and the Metropolitan Planning Organization, which helps decide transportation priorities for the region including Cabarrus and Rowan counties, has recommended a $5 million plan to build an elevated overpass to ease the flow of traffic into Concord Mills.
The goal of the project is to take the traffic from Concord Mills Boulevard that is now turning left into the mall onto an elevated overpass rather than crossing in front of oncoming traffic. "It eliminates the predominate conflict maneuver, which is the left turn across Concord Mills Boulevard," said Joe Wilson, Concord's transportation director.
The proposed overpass would also allow the city to reduce the amount of time motorists sit at traffic lights and would increase efficiency along the entire corridor.
Improvements to the traffic signal times would also allow the addition of pedestrian accommodations for the hotel and Concord Convention Center guests, Wilson said. Currently, there are no sidewalks or crosswalks, so many visitors must get back in their cars and drive from hotels like Great Wolf Lodge to Concord Mills, which is less than a mile away.
City and MPO officials are recommending that plans to address the pedestrian needs at Exit 49 be evaluated and included in the fiscal year 2016-22 Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Plan. The proposed enhancements, which total about $4 million, would allow visitors and residents to access the businesses, attractions and venues while eliminating the need to drive. It also would allow access to the Hector Henry Greenway, which is part of the Carolina Thread Trail network.