HUNTERSVILLE – In four to five years, Interstate 77 motorists will have three different ways to access businesses, homes and side streets at and around the Exit 25 interchange.
At a Feb. 5 public workshop sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), representatives of the Kimley-Horn consulting firm unveiled the close-to-finalized version of the multi-bridge, split-diamond interchange design that will be built at the N.C. 73-I-77 exchange. The project is firmly embedded in the state’s Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) – the document that identifies, prioritizes and schedules transportation projects – and is set for final document approval and right of way acquisition efforts in 2019. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2020.
The $18.05 million split-diamond system will involve the construction of new I-77 crossings north and south of the existing N.C. 73 bridge. The new lanes across the interstate will be linked to roundabouts and new access roads designed to give motorists exiting I-77 options for reaching destinations without mingling with traffic on N.C. 73.
The concept had been discussed at recent meetings involving Huntersville officials. And Bill Coxe, the town’s transportation planner, provided broad-stroke previews of the project’s possibilities several times. But the Feb. 5 workshop held at Meadowlake Church was the first time town leaders – guests at a special preview prior to the public session – and local residents got the chance to view the masterplan now adopted as the blueprint for the interchange upgrade.
The planned, multi-faceted exchange will feature elongated exit ramps that will allow motorists to proceed to N.C. 73, or access the roundabouts and new bridges.
South of the existing bridge, the new crossing will connect to an extended Rich Hatchet Road on the east side of I-77 and Northcross Drive (near the La Unica Mexican restaurant) on the west side.
North of the existing bridge, the new roundabout, bridge and road network will link with an extension of Caldwell Creek Drive near the existing Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s restaurants. The exact location and design of the Caldwell Creek roundabout is a part of the plan that could change. The current plan calls for a four-legged roundabout at the edge of the I-77 right of way. But another option is for a five-legged roundabout closer to the existing Caldwell Drive. Both will involve the removal of the Quality Inn currently at that location.
If projects proceed as scheduled in the TIP, construction at Exit 25 could begin before work at Huntersville’s other current I-77 exchange, Exit 23, is finished. Construction on the $11 million Exit 23 project, designed to be a dual-bridge diverging diamond, is scheduled to begin within the next year.