West Catawba Phase Two widening will eliminate most left turns

NC_DOT_Logo(2000x2000)Virtually all left turns from side streets onto W. Catawba Avenue from Jetton Road to Sam Furr Road will be eliminated in the state DOT’s widening plan for the busy thoroughfare. Under the tentative plan, more lanes will be added and significant property will have to be acquired near the Westmoreland Road intersection.Merchants—and motorists—are expected to have to deal with construction in 2018, according to DOT schedules.

Scott Cole and James Dunlop, DOT division engineers, explained that the department’s preferred plans for widening the road had been narrowed down to a “superstreet” or “hybrid superstreet” concept. In both cases the four-lane road would have a median and motorists wishing to enter Catawba for a left turn would, instead, have to turn right and go a short distance where they could then make a u-turn and proceed.

Fifteen was the magic number Cole and Dunlop told Cornelius Town Commissioner Dave Gilroy on Monday night when he asked how many left turn movements would be eliminated. Among those would be the Magnolia Plaza Shopping Center exit across from CVS, where added cars from Publix will soon emerge. Motorists seeking to go left would instead take a new exit road onto Jetton Road behind Aquesta Bank, then travel for a short distance to the traffic signal and turn south.

Several years ago, West Catawba Avenue was widened from a two- to four-lane divided highway from I-77 to Jetton Road, and a number of left-turn movements were similarly eliminated, though not as many as projected in the Phase II plan. Town Manager Anthony Roberts noted that extra left-turn inlets were added to that stretch to benefit motorists who lost left-turn movements when the divided highway median was added. “The board may want to look at this as an idea to help those who will lose their left turn options,” he said.

Dunlop said the state has taken traffic forecasts up to 2035 for the project. “We believe the superstreet concept is the best option. The biggest problem will be the Westmoreland Road intersection. We expect an I-77 interchange will eventually be built for Westmoreland, so the Catawba/Westmoreland intersection must be built to handle the increased volume of traffic.”

Though the elimination of the left turns was clearly a concern to the board. Mayor Chuck Travis said he felt the DOT’s approach was the only way to adequately handle the increased volume of traffic in future years.

“Conceptually this approach makes sense,” Travis said. “But we need to see more specific diagrams of all the intersections before we sign off on the entire superstreet idea.”

Based upon the input from the town board, Cole says the DOT will proceed with the environmental and planning stage of the project. The next public meeting is scheduled for March 2015. Under current DOT schedules, construction is not expected to begin before late 2018.


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