By DAVID BORAKS
HUNTERSVILLE – The $17 million road widening project on Sam Furr Road (N.C. 73) east of I-77 in Huntersville is nearing completion, and it’s bringing a major change in the traffic pattern at Sam Furr and Statesville Road/U.S. 21. Beginning Wednesday, March 7, cars heading east or west on Sam Furr Road will no longer be allowed to make left turns onto U.S. 21.
The N.C. Department of Transportation and Huntersville officials say the intersection has been re-engineered using a new design called “quadrant left,” which is aimed at reducing congestion. To reach U.S. 21 north or south of the intersection, drivers now will have to use Holly Point Drive, which passes the North County Regional Library.
NC DOT said the changes will take effect at 10 p.m. Wednesday, March 7, weather permitting.
The $17 million N.C. 73 project began in November 2009 and is widening the road from two to four lanes, with new center turn lanes from west of U.S. 21 to east of N.C. 115. The project is being paid for with federal stimulus funds.
The intersection redesign comes as contractor Blythe Development Co. of Charlotte heads into the home stretch on the project. NC DOT officials said last week they’ll give the go ahead for Blythe to begin final resurfacing of the 1.4-mile project after March 15, and the whole project should be done by the end of April.
After that, both sides of the new divided N.C. 73 will be open, from U.S. 21 east to beyond N.C. 115/Old Statesville Road.
“Right now, we have some limitations on placing the final inch of surface. We will not allow them to place that until after the March 15 date,” said Rick Pruitt, an NC DOT assistant resident engineer working on the project. He said the department requires consistent warmer weather for resurfacing.
Traffic patterns have been shifted around as work was underway over the past year or so. The latest, which was to have taken effect Wednesday night, Feb. 22, called for N.C. 73 traffic to shift to the two outside lanes of the new divided road, between Rich Hatchet Road to east of N.C. 115. That will allow Blythe crews to safely pour concrete for median islands, continue sidewalk work, and put down the final road surface.
NO LEFT TURNS
The road project is expected to bring relief to big traffic backups east of I-77 Exit 25 amid population growth and new development in recent years. Still, the end of left turns on N.C. 73 at U.S. 21 will take some getting used to.
The new “quadrant left” intersection is designed to reduces congestion. The contractor anticipates opening the intersection March 7. A visualization of the intersection can be seen here.
Here’s the official description of the change, and the new traffic routes:
Motorists seeking to head north on US 21 from NC 73 eastbound will go through the current intersection of NC73/US21 and make a right turn onto an upgraded and improved Holly Point Drive and then turn right on to US 21 to head north. Motorists seeking to travel US21 southbound from NC73 westbound will be required to turn left at Holly Point Drive then left onto US21 instead of making the left at the US21/NC73 intersection. This revised traffic movement will make the intersection safer and more efficient.
The changes will mean new traffic signals on side roads around the major intersection. [The original DOT project map called for new traffic signals at several of the secondary intersections: Holly Point Drive and NC 73, Rich Hatchet Road and NC 73 and Holly Point Drive and U.S. 21.] All are now in place, though some are covered. A Huntersville town official said Thursday the new signal at Holly Point Drive and U.S. 21 would be uncovered and active on March 7th.
Southbound U.S. 21 traffic will not be allowed to turn left onto Holly Point Drive. See the comment below from Huntersville transportation planner Bill Cox.
Town of Huntersville announcement about the intersection change, on Huntersville.org
NC DOT press release about the NC 73 changes.
Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Organization web page about the NC 73 widening.