Hwy. 3 ‘superstreet’ includes beautification, bike-friendly design


Hwy. 3 improvements mean more connectivity with NCRC

By Dave Vieser

North Carolina Highway 3, so numbered in honor of the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., will have a new wider look in the very near future. Construction on a $32.1 million widening plan in Kannapolis is slated to begin in 2016, and property needed to accommodate the wider road is already being acquired by the state.

The proposed improvements will widen 2.5 miles of Highway 3, also known as Mooresville Road, between Kannapolis Parkway and Loop Road North (adjacent to the North Carolina Research Campus) to a four-lane superstreet with sidewalks and bike paths on both sides. Currently Highway 3 in that area is a two-lane road, prone to frequent congestion. DOT officials say it’s a perfect companion to the growth around the Research Campus area.

“The purpose of the project is to relieve anticipated congestion along the NC 3 corridor” said DOT spokesman Warren Cooksey. “It’s actually a carryover project from the current State Transportation Improvement Program.”

At previous community meetings, DOT and Kannapolis officials have noted that some 30 homes and five businesses will have to be relocated or replaced to handle the wider road. The state is in the process of establishing compensation for the impacted property owners.

Kannapolis officials are optimistic about the new road.

“This widening will provide us with connectivity between the expanding businesses and residential areas on Kannapolis Parkway and the North Carolina Research Campus/Downtown District,” said Kannapolis City Manager Mike Legg. “These two economic development drivers of our economy are growing and naturally need to be better connected. This is a major entryway into our city and the widening of NC 3 will allow for better traffic flow and function as our city continues to grow.”

Legg expressed his appreciation to the DOT for prioritizing the project.

The widening will result in what DOT calls a superstreet, whereby the two lanes of traffic in each direction are divided by a median. Under this type of construction, left turn movements from side streets are eliminated and motorists must first turn right and then make a U turn to achieve their desired direction of travel. The concept has been met with significant resistance in some other communities such as Cornelius, but in areas that are more commercial it seems to work.

The Kannapolis superstreet will include bike paths. Annette Privette Keller, the city’s public relations manager, said officials are discussing the nature of median beautification and landscaping with the DOT which will be implemented as part of the project. “We really want this corridor to be a beautiful gateway to Kannapolis.”

The eastern end of the project will require the removal of several mill houses which lie within the city’s Historic District. This area has more strict rules about easements and rights-of-way. The DOT is working with the Federal Highway Administration and the state to come up with a plan which will lessen any potential impacts on the historic district. Items such as special plaques or kiosks may be utilized.

City officials also praised the inclusion of bicycle lanes in the project, which, they said, demonstrates that Kannapolis is a bicycle friendly city.

In Cornelius, bike lanes have not been discussed. DOTs Cooksey said the ability to add bike lanes to a superstreet project is driven, in part, by the specific property availabilities and needs of each project. He did not provide a specific breakdown on how much additional land must be acquired to accommodate bike lanes on the Highway 3 project.