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Wednesday, 23 January 2013 17:45

Last leg of I-485 is halfway there

Written by  John Deem
North Meck commuters have been waiting more than two decades to see the completion of the final leg of I-485, the five-mile segment connecting I-77 to I-85 in the University City area. North Meck commuters have been waiting more than two decades to see the completion of the final leg of I-485, the five-mile segment connecting I-77 to I-85 in the University City area. Photo by John Deem

Long-sufffering northeast Meck drivers won't be living on a prayer for completed loop much longer.

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. -- Drivers in northern Mecklenburg County have waited for more than one-quarter century, but there is finally light at the end of the highway.

Or, to be more accurate, there soon will be no end to the highway at all. The project to build the final, five-mile section of Interstate 485, from N.C. 115 to I-85, is nearing the halfway point.

Given the history of I-485's development — which had more stops and starts than rush-hour traffic on I-77 — that might be hard to believe for drivers who have long navigated back roads to get from Huntersville to Concord, or vice-versa.

It was 1988 when Gov. Jim Martin turned the ceremonial first shovelful of dirt to commemorate the start of construction on the inaugural, 1.3-mile section of I-485, in southern Mecklenburg. So, for folks in the Lake Norman area, it's been a sometimes excruciating wait for the final link in what will be a 65-mile loop around Charlotte.

But the wait is nearly over. The N.C. Department of Transportation estimates an I-485 completion date of April 21, 2015, and reports that work on the project is ahead of schedule and about 48 percent complete.

Here is a reminder of the key elements in the project.

• Complete the final section of I-485 from west of N.C. 115 to west of I-85.

• Complete the interchange at I-485 and N.C. 115.

• Extend Alexanderana Road from N.C. 115 (Old Statesville Road) to connect with Eastfield Road.

• Build a bridge to carry Browne Road over I-485.

• Build a "split diamond" interchange at Prosperity Church Road. The split diamond interchange will allow traffic to take an exit ramp that crosses three streets and then will direct traffic onto the freeway. The exit ramp at the split diamond interchange will take traffic off I-485. The on-ramp will take traffic onto I-485 and a one-way service road will connect the exit ramp and on-ramp. The interchange will include six roundabouts.

• Realign Johnston-Oehler Road to connect with the Prosperity Church Road-De'Armon Road intersection.

• Construct a "diverging diamond" interchange at Mallard Creek Road. The diverging diamond allows two directions of traffic to temporarily cross to the left side of the road, so it moves high volumes of traffic through an intersection without increasing the number of lanes and traffic signals.

• Realign Ridge Road and Odell School Road in the vicinity of the I-485/Mallard Creek Road interchange.

The $140 million I-485 completion is part of a larger project that also includes the interchange of I-85 and I-485 ($92 million) and the widening of a seven-mile stretch of I-85 near the new interchange ($125 million).

For the I-485 completion, the NCDOT awarded a contract to Blythe Construction Inc. and Wilbur Smith Associates to both design and build the project. Combining the two elements generally speeds up the process and helps to avoid inflation-related cost increases later.

For the interchange and I-85 widening, the state took its design-build concept a step further by also allowing the contractors to finance a portion of the projects — in this case, $25 million for each. It's the first time NCDOT used a design-build-finance model. Those funds are to be paid back with future federal highway funds that are designated to urban loops.

To view more about the progress of I-485, visit www.ncdot.gov/projects/CharlotteOuterLoop/.

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2 comments

  • Comment Link Jack Friday, 05 December 2014 15:47 posted by Jack

    Delayed again until spring 2015! Great job NCDOT & politicians of NC!!!
    Everybody involved in this project should be ashamed at the ineptitude displayed in this greatly delayed project...

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  • Comment Link Janet Wednesday, 16 April 2014 19:16 posted by Janet

    What's the status of this road completion?

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