HUNTERSVILLE – It’s no longer described as a “superstreet” – in road design lingo that maligned term for a turn-restricting, traffic-flow-focused thoroughfare has been redefined as a “reduced-conflict intersection corridor” – but the N.C. Department of Transportation’s plans for a wider and revised N.C. 73 along the southern edge of Lake Norman will still involve some significant adjustments for local residents and highway travelers.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow,” NCDOT Division 10 Engineer Scott Cole told town commissioners during a summary of the vision for N.C. 73 delivered at the town board’s Aug. 5 meeting, “but the finished product will benefit the town.”
Cole, joined in the presentation by Huntersville Transportation Planner Bill Coxe, was responding to multiple comments from commissioners about disruptions in access routes – to businesses and homes – the proposed highway design would create.
Along the section of highway highlighted at the meeting – basically between Duke Energy’s McGuire Nuclear Station and Northcross Drive – proposed changes to N.C. 73, in addition to an extra travel lane in each direction, would include approximately 16 U-turn bulbs east and west of intersections where left turns onto N.C. 73, or left turns off N.C. 73, would be prohibited.
“This is ridiculous,” Commissioner Danny Phillips said at one point during the discussion. “So many places along this corridor, it’s not what we’re after. People in Huntersville are not going to want this.”
Cole acknowledged concerns aired by Phillips and other board members, but emphasized the NCDOT’s goal, based on current traffic counts and future projections, is to address congestion and keep traffic moving on a state highway that is a major east-west artery for the region.
“We have to balance access with traffic movement,” he said. “When you increase access, you degrade traffic movement.”
He also said, in response to concerns about changes and turn restrictions at intersections posing problems for businesses and homeowners, that incorporating conventional full-movement intersections as part of the widened highway would “require a greater footprint” and could cause more disruption.
“You have to allow more lanes,” he said, “and you have a bigger impact to homes and businesses.”
In the proposed plans, left turns off N.C. 73 are limited (Birkdale Commons Parkway; Kenton Drive; and Hubbard, Oliver Hager and Cramur roads are some) and left turns onto N.C. 73 are rare (Beatties Ford Road and Lindholm Drive at Birkdale Village are exceptions).
Proposed traffic movement treatments elsewhere along N.C. 73 – with Cole explaining, “We’ll put traffic signals where traffic signals are needed” and that plans can be amended – include:
West Catawba Avenue
A version of a “continuous flow intersection” will be created. It will funnel westbound Catawba Avenue motorists trying to access eastbound N.C. 73 along a new roadway to a signaled crossing east of the current intersection. The added roadway will also provide westbound N.C. 73 traffic access to eastbound Catawba.
The proposal allows no left turns around the current intersection, but the town requested – and NCDOT officials agreed to evaluate – options for allowing left turns at either Catawba Avenue (at the Cashion’s convenience store) or Regency Park Drive (Harris Teeter).
Beatties Ford Road
A left-turn lane on N.C. 73 at Brown Mill Road will serve as the Beatties Ford Road access for westbound N.C. 73 traffic. Left turns will not be allowed off N.C. 73 at Beatties Ford Road. Two left turn lanes on Beatties Ford Road will provide access to N.C. 73.
Brown Mill Road will also intersect with N.C. 73 west of the Beatties Ford intersection, providing eastbound N.C. 73 traffic access to Beatties Ford without navigating the primary intersection.
No left turns will be allowed. A “bowtie” intersection, featuring roundabouts on Northcross north and south of the current intersection, will be created.
The lakefront park and boat launching area will have a new right-in-only entrance off N.C. 73 east of the current main entrance, which will become a right-out-only exit. Expanded U-turn bulbs, designed to accommodate vehicles pulling boat trailers, will be located east of the entrance and west of the exit.