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Cornelius News

Growth drives traffic ahead of schedule on Hwy. 73


By Dave Vieser. When conversation in the Golden Crescent—the motorsports region from Lake Norman to Cabarrus—turns to traffic, I-77 is normally front and center. However, there’s another traffic corridor that is getting a significant amount of attention: Hwy. 73.

A 35-mile stretch from Lincoln County on the west to Concord eastward is like a Main Street for the motorsports region and a connector between I-85 and I-77.

While there’s a four-lane stretch known as Sam Furr Road, it’s two lanes most of the way even though some segments carry up to 70,000 vehicles a day—highly unusual for what is primarily a two-lane road.

It also traverses some of the fastest growing communities in the state.

“This is a critical corridor to the region and every community needs to combine their efforts for the best results, ” said Charles Knox, founder of the The Council of Planning, a multi-jurisdictional group that monitors and helps manage planning for Hwy. 73.

Knox formed the planning council when he was in his 30’s. “Now I’m in my 50’s and by the time Hwy. 73 is a four-lane highway from end to end, I may well be in my 70’s. However it’s a project that must be done.”

Speaking at a Lake Norman Chamber Focus Friday sponsored by Business Today, Knox, and Kannapolis Planning Director Zac Gordon said they are witnessing traffic levels today which were not originally expected for another 10 years.

“We will need to keep the pressure on the DOT to get it done as soon as they can,” Gordon said.

Knox and Gordon expect NCDOT to begin land acquisition in 2020. “In many spots, the road has a reasonably wide right-of-way which will help,” Gordon said.

To complete the widening as soon as possible, the DOT has combined what was originally seven separate widening projects from NC 16 in Lincoln County to US 29 in Cabarrus County into one major project, at an estimated total cost of $343 million. The work would include either widening the bridge over the Catawba River or building a second parallel bridge.

“The anticipated timeframe to complete the project is three to four years after construction begins, except for the N.C. 73/N.C. 16 intersection improvements, which could take up to two years,” said DOT spokeswoman Jennifer Thompson.

That would mean possible completion in the 2025-2026 time frame.

Mayor John Aneralla of Huntersville, where much of Hwy. 73 will be widened, said the NCDOT is accelerating the purchase of rights of way. “This is overall a very important positive for transportation and commerce in this area,” he said.