you're reading...

Cornelius News

Bump in the road: Inflation impacts Cornelius NCDOT road projects

July 7. By Dave Vieser. The escalating cost of goods and services is having an impact on many aspects of life, not the least of which are road improvement projects promised for Cornelius. Compounded by cash-flow problems at the NC Dept. of Transportation, some projects may be delayed, others even canceled, as officials scramble with how to address soaring costs.

Here’s how it looks as of mid-year. Our source is Deputy Town Manager Wayne Herron.

Widening West Catawba from Jetton to Sam Furr

This is one of if not the most vital improvement project for the town and the cost just keeps going up while the construction timeline continues to be delayed.

As of June 1, the cost for this project has gone from $24 million to an estimated $51 million.


“However, NCDOT has not completed their re-evaluations of West Catawba, so we don’t really have confirmation or official notice on that estimate,” Herron said. The only official commitment for additional funds to be paid by the Town stands at $1.2 million. “The remainder is on NCDOT, but that could change based on any updated estimates.”

Right-of-way acquisition is currently underway, and construction is currently scheduled to begin in fall 2024. Originally, the land acquisition was scheduled to have been completed last year.

Triple roundabouts near Torrence Chapel

The triple roundabouts related to the troublesome intersection of Torrence Chapel Road and West Catawba appear to be doomed. At their pre-agenda meeting on Monday June 6, the Town Board concurred with the recommendation of the town staff that the roundabouts be abandoned, primarily as a result of a new analysis provided by the NCDOT.

Town Commissioner Denis Bilodeau said it’s not the worst thing that could happen.

“The roundabouts alone would not have improved the Torrence Chapel /Catawba intersection. NCDOT also proposed the unpopular elimination of left turn movements. Hopefully, a delay will allow for a better, more cost-effective solution,” Bilodeau said.


Under revised project costs, the cost of building the three roundabouts had increased by some $11.5 million. Since the town would have to shoulder all of the increase, the commissioners joined town staff in questioning the viability of continuing the project.

Hickory and Main intersection

This project includes the installation of a new traffic signal, but the cost has mushroomed from $1.5 million to $4.9 million. “The Town would be responsible for $3.4 million,” Herron said. Despite the higher costs, Cornelius wants to proceed, with bidding to occur in 2023 and construction to begin spring 2024.

Catawba/Hwy. 21 Dual Roundabouts

The cost for this project has increased from $17.4 million to $19.7 million, and the town is responsible for the $2.3 million difference. Herron said that bidding should occur this fall and construction will begin spring 2023. “We recommend moving forward with utility relocation, and construction, then evaluating construction costs further after bids are received by DOT.”

Potts/Main Street Roundabout

The cost has risen from $7.1 million to $13.1 million and the Town is responsible for $6 million. Utility relocations are ready to begin at the end of August, project bidding to begin this fall and construction in spring 2023.

Northcross Extension

The cost has risen from $19.1 million to $24.8 million, and  the Town is responsible for $5.6 million. Project bidding is slated to occur this fall and construction to begin spring 2023.

Where the town plans to go ahead with the road improvements, they have also asked town and state representatives to ask the Charlotte Regional Planning Transportation Organization (CRPTO) to consider additional state discretionary funds.

I-77 Exit 27

There is no firm cost estimate yet for this interchange which would be built where Westmoreland Road crosses the interstate. However, as plans materialize for Atrium’s Cornelius hospital, town officials are hopeful that the need for quick access to and from I-77 will strengthen the case for a new Exit 27.

Help from Raleigh?

A contingent of town staff and commissioners paid a visit to state representatives earlier in June to impress upon them the importance of receiving more assistance from the state to make these important projects happen.


“One proposal under discussion was the diversion of existing state sales tax money to the DOT in order to help fund these vital projects,” said Commissioner Michael Osborne. “This would not be an increase in the sales tax but rather a change in the distribution of existing sales tax collections.”

Any such change, however, would require action by the General Assembly.

Curve(s) ahead: Mayor’s perspective on road projects

It’s no secret we have congestion on our roads.


While we are excited to get the road improvements we so deserve, Town staff and I were working very closely with NCDOT on the timing, so there would not be so much construction pain at one time. We all still remember the DDI construction and how it impacted our daily lives.  That scenario must be avoided!

That said, NCDOT notified the Town of delays in project schedules due to NCDOT’s cash flow issues on top of cost increases that could impact the Town’s share of funding related to each project.

In addition, the cost of the Torrence Chapel project has ballooned to approximately $11 million.

This has caused the Town to rethink its impact. Potentially dropping or revamping it may further help in daily coordination of traffic and congestion—more to come on that.

Multiple projects are scheduled to be completed before West Catawba widening begins in 2024, more than doubling its capacity.

We are in a good place with our projects but there’s more work to do as we stay in very close touch with NCDOT.

—Woody Washam, mayor

Town of Cornelius