Catawba Avenue at Exit 28 reopened to traffic before sunrise on Sunday morning, with lanes reconfigured into a crossover pattern called a “diverging diamond” that’s designed to improve traffic flow on and off I-77.
The road had closed to cars, bikes and pedestrians Friday night at midnight so the NC Department of Transportation’s contractor Blythe Construction could complete the realignment. Traffic on Saturday was heavier than normal on side roads including US 21/Statesville Road and Westmoreland Road, as drivers sought alternate routes across the highway.
It had been scheduled to be closed until 8am Sunday, but it was open hours before that.
Although the road reopened with the new traffic pattern, traffic is now down to one lane in both directions. That will continue for the next 4 or 5 months, and could snarl the area’s already slow traffic at peak hours.
The next steps will be to build concrete medians, walls, permanent traffic signals, and sidewalks, the town says on its DDI project web page.
The work is part of a $5.4 million NC Department of Transportation project to reduce congestion in the Exit 28 area. Work will continue on the project through at least November, town and DOT officials have said.
When that’s done, the Town of Cornelius also is planning a related project to improve the appearance of the overpass, making it a “gateway” to town. Plans call for a nautical-themed design with decorative bridge abutments, 5-foot lanterns at four corners, a central pedestrian walkway on the bridge, and trees and other plantings.
DRIVING A ‘DIVERGING DIAMOND’
So how does a “diverging diamond” work? Catawba Avenue drivers entering the overpass from either direction will pass through a traffic signal and then cross over to the left side of the bridge. From there, they’ll be able to cruise onto I-77 north or south without another stop, as currently required.
Those continuing across the overpass will go through another signal and cross back over to the right side of the road to continue on Catawba Avenue.
Meanwhile, traffic exiting the highway from north or south will travel off the ramp and onto Catawba Avenue without a stoplight.
(See an NCDOT video that explains how to drive through a diverging diamond interchange.)
The bridge project also eventually will improve pedestrian and bike traffic on the road, adding a central walkway/bike path.
RELATED COVERAGE AND LINKS
See the Town of Cornelius information page about the project, on Cornelius.org.
June 10, 2014, “Town officials address concerns about Exit 28 lane closures” – coverage of this week’s public meeting on the road plan.
June 9, 2014, “Meeting Wed. to answer questions about Exit 28 overpass closure.” – includes the latest information from the NCDOT.
See an NCDOT Video showing how to drive through a diverging diamond interchange.
Town of Cornelius DDI project web page,
Past coverage of the DDI project on CorneliusNews.net.