Projects to add new express lanes, interchanges, and widen bridges are experiencing the same problems as the rest of the construction industry: supply chain issues.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Improvements to Interstate 485 in south Charlotte will take longer than originally anticipated.
The North Carolina Department of Transportation said the hope was to complete the project, which includes new express lanes and interchanges, by the end of this year, but now it could take much longer due to several factors.
“We know it’s inconvenient and folks want it done” Jen Thompson, of NCDOT, said.
Since 2019, crews have reached several milestones, including opening a new bridge on Elm Lane over I-485 last summer. A new free, general-purpose lane has also opened in both directions between Providence and Rea roads.
More improvements are on the way. Upcoming milestones include a wider bridge on Ballantyne Commons Parkway, a new interchange at Weddington Road, and improvements at the John Street interchange.
“It’s more than adding an express lane in each direction. There are lots of other corridor projects going on at the same time,” Thompson explained. “The reason we’re doing it now is because it’s already under construction and we don’t want to go back and disrupt things a few years from now.”
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Meanwhile, some drivers who spoke to WCNC Charlotte’s Lexi Wilson said it’s not necessary and expressed their frustrations with the construction.
“It’s not what we needed. Not a good way to spend money. We could’ve added the lane and been done with it,” Tom Sims said.
The project is expected to last two more years due to several complications.
“Labor shortage, material shortage, delays in getting materials that are being felt in the construction industry, and cost escalation. It’s a battle everyone’s dealing with right now,” Thompson said.
The project is expected to be fully completed by winter 2024.
The latest schedule can be found here.
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A brief project history:
In 2007, the city of Charlotte partnered with the NC, the SC Department of Transportation, the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization, and other local and regional agencies to initiate a study into express lanes, which at the time was called the “Fast Lanes Study,” according to the NCDOT.
“This study examined existing and planned major highways throughout a 10-county area and identified corridors that could benefit most from implementing express lanes to help manage congestion during peak travel periods,” a NCDOT website explains. “The initial findings targeted Interstate 485 and U.S. 74 (Independence Boulevard) for additional study. After further evaluation, the CRTPO added the express lanes projects on I-485 and U.S. 74 to its 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP), which was adopted in April 2014.”
Ultimately, NCDOT said their goal is to deliver a project to improve travel time reliability and traffic flow in the corridor.