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Latest I85 Widening in Kannapolis and Concord

June 7th 2015

 KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- After years of planning and a few revisions, the next phase of I-85 widening through Cabarrus County has begun.
The project will add two lanes in each direction 7.9 miles from north of Highway 73 (Exit 55) to north of Lane Street (Exit 63), according to information provided by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
The project also will eliminate the at-grade rail crossing on Winecoff School Road, realign Kannapolis Highway south of I-85 and improve the interchanges on Exits 58, 60 and 63.
The $187 million project is expected to be complete in June 2018, according to the latest NCDOT estimates.
I-85 has been widened throughout the corridor from Charlotte to Greensboro, all but the “last little bottleneck in the area,” NCDOT Director of Outreach and Community Affairs Warren Cooksey said in a presentation to the Cabarrus Economic Development Corporation (EDC) last week.
Cooksey called the interchanges “old,” “worn out” and “not up to current standards.”
“We’re going to fix all of that,” he said.

Crews started work on the project on May 4. They are strengthening shoulders so NCDOT can shift traffic outside and work on the inside of the road. It’s similar to how the last phase developed, with an island of temporary construction infrastructure in the middle of the road.
Expect delays during the process, but NCDOT officials say they are holding the most disruptive construction to nighttime hours.
Blythe Construction is handling the project for NCDOT.
Blythe Business Development Manager Chuck Gallant said his company is strictly limited in how it can handle lane closures and construction timing.
Materials will be stockpiled as near to the project as possible, and the company will build temporary ramps into the median to move most of materials into the construction zone.
EDC President Patrick Coughlin praised the project, calling it a boon to business and future development.
“I can’t tell you how thrilling it was to see those little orange barrels go up a few weeks ago,” he said. “I’m very excited that on my commute I get to see this project unfold both on my commute to and from work.”

NCDOT will change the configuration of Exit 58 from a classic cloverleaf design to its increasingly utilized diverging diamond shape, similar to the designs of Poplar Tent Road and Highway 73.
Basically, a driver will pass through a traffic signal and cross through oncoming traffic to the left side of the new roadway. The driver then will continue over the interstate bridge on the left side of the road, which will be separated from oncoming traffic by barriers. Finally, the driver will pass through another light on the other side of the bridge and cross over oncoming traffic again, ending up back on the right side of the roadway.
The design creates fewer signal changes and allows for more free-flowing traffic.
There are side projects associated with the Exit 58 redesign, including the realignment of Kannapolis Highway from where it connects to U.S. 29 just south of South Ridge Avenue. The new setup will run traffic further south, around a curve, over a new railroad bridge and into an intersection across from Mall Drive at Carolina Mall and CMC-NorthEast.
South Ridge Avenue’s bridge over I-85 will be demolished, and the road will dead end on either side of the interstate.
The at-grade rail crossing on Winecoff School Road, known as “Cook’s Crossing,” will close, and a new road will move traffic from Winecoff onto Tremont Avenue, through a roundabout on Stewart Street, then south under the South Main Street (Kannapolis Highway) and the railroad bridge where it will loop north and connect with South Ridge Avenue.
Kannapolis city leaders for a long time have prioritized separating vehicle and railroad traffic at Cook’s Crossing.
“Anyone who’s tried it knows what a risky situation it is,” Cooksey said. The changes to Winecoff also will allow trains to pass more easily through Kannapolis.

Exit 60 went through major changes during its development. The original design took the exit ramp from the southbound lane into a subdivision and left a Lowe’s Home Improvement Store, a bank and the EDC’s headquarters in a bizarre island between the interstate and the ramp.
Residents and businesses complained, and NCDOT came back with a creative solution.
It’s called a “folded diamond” interchange. The new design takes the ramp in question back on the other side of the shopping center and creates a “flyover” ramp on the Copperfield Boulevard side of the exit.
Someone wanting to go south on I-85 from Dale Earnhardt Boulevard will have cross the I-85 bridge and stop at a signal on Copperfield then turn right and take another bridge back over the interstate to an on ramp.
It looks a bit complicated, but “the goal was to improve the interchange as much as possible while preserving the development,” Cooksey said.
The most obvious change at Exit 63 will be the introduction of three roundabouts to improve traffic flow.
It’s a “fairly routine” interchange design, Cooksey said.
The project also changes the intersection of Lake Concord Road, Copperfield Boulevard and Branchview Drive. The design removes the separate right turning lane south from Branchview onto Lake Concord, adds an access to the shopping center off northbound Branchview and modernizes the road and intersection structures in the area.
“It will all be part of the work that will be done over the next three years to improve this corridor,” Cooksey said, referencing the overall project, which includes Rowan County.

Concord and Kannapolis are chipping in with NCDOT to add artistic infrastructure the exits in the current project and on Exits 54 and 55.
The two cities have collaborated on brick facades on the bridge abutments, signage and landscaping in pursuit of branding efforts.
Both cities already have committed about $25,000 in design costs and will each pay around $200,000 for construction.
The standout features will be 17-foot brick towers featuring the logo of whatever city the driver is entering.
“You’ll see these monuments on either side at the bridges to know yes you’re in Kannapolis or yes you’re in Concord,” Cooksey said. “It adds a bit of aesthetic value to what is a lot of harsh concrete.”
The aesthetic enhancements suit Gov. Pat McCrory’s desire to use art and architecture to make the state more attractive overall, Cooksey added.
More information on the overall project is available at



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