DENVER – Last month the North Carolina Department of Transportation held a couple of preliminary meetings regarding the plans for widening N.C. 73. About 8.5 miles – starting at Northcross Drive in Huntersville, ending at N.C. 16 in Denver – will be revamped. For Denver this means better traffic flow, according to Lincoln County Planning and Inspections Director Andrew Bryant.
Bryant said the big picture is to “increase traffic carrying capacity” and “to operate at acceptable level of service through 2040” – meaning to let more cars through.
According to a handout from NCDOT, “N.C. 73 is a regionally important route, being the only Catawba River crossing between N.C. 150 and N.C. 16.” And without improvements, it’s projected that by 2040, traffic could jump to 45,500 vehicles per day (vpd) between N.C. 16 and West Catawba Avenue. And from West Catawba Avenue to Northcross Drive, traffic could reach 60,000 vpd.
“The biggest impact will be at N.C.16 Business, Pilot Knob Road and Club Drive,” Bryant said of changes in Denver.
Right now, Bryant said there are two designs concepts for the intersection of N.C. 16 Business and N.C. 73 being considered. NCDOT was already considering improvements for the intersection, but instead of being an independent project, it has “formally” been absorbed by the the bigger N.C. 73 project.
One idea is for a signalized super street concept that places restrictions on turns. It would be similar to the intersection concept being designed for Optimist Cub Road and N.C. 16.
The other, Bryant said, is something called a continuous flow intersection, which features crossover lanes for left-hand turns and right-turn exit lanes on the approaches to intersections and eliminates those maneuvers at the intersection. The concept is newer, and there aren’t any in North Carolina yet. One is slated to be built at the intersection of N.C. 16 and Mt. Holly-Huntersville Road in nearby Mountain Island, and the second will be in another area of Mecklenburg County.
“It would require an animation to understand,” Bryant said, stressing it is not at all like a roundabout.
“The overall goal of (continuous flow intersections) is to minimize left-turn conflicts,” he said, “so the road operates more efficiently.”
Left turns, Bryant said, are what keep people sitting at red lights, which creates unfavorable congestion.
But all of these ideas are in the preliminary stages, and Charlotte-based architecture firm HDR is slated to present its first designs this fall. The company has been hired to see the design process all the way through for the N.C. 73 project.
Bryant said there will be another public meeting in late spring, and meeting information will be available soon. Affected property owners should expect to be contacted in 2020 for negotiations, and the three-year construction project is slated to commence in 2022.