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Cornelius News

Twin circles at Hwy. 21/Catawba put businesses in a box

Aug. 24. By Dave Vieser. Just when it seemed like NCDOT officials and residents from the Smithville area agreed on a traffic plan at Hwy. 21 and Catawba Avenue, members of the business community say the design would put them out of business. The traffic plan features twin roundabouts that ultimately divert traffic away from at least one business that has been the mainstay of Cornelius for decades.

“Simply stated, this road design will cause us to close our Exit 28 store,” said Cashion’s Quik Stop executive Gordon Cashion. “We are a pass-by destination, and once people do the loops needed to reach us, they will not come back, but rather go to a convenience store with easier access. It will crush us.”

Previous plans had included a standard roundabout at the intersection, as well as a “quad left turn” turn arrangement. The new twin roundabout option almost literally would have motorists going around Robin Hood’s barn to get anywhere nearby. Just to get back to the interstate—or go west on Catawba—customers would have to navigate two loops and two traffic lights.

Cashion said several other nearby businesses, including Sleepy’s Mattress Firm, share his concerns.

The Cashion’s family business dates back a century. It began with Gordon Cashion’s grandfather as a grocery store—and an adjoining funeral home—in downtown Cornelius. It morphed into the C-store industry when the grocery was sold to Lowe’s Food in 1993. They actively support local non-profits ranging from the Ada Jenkins Center to the YMCA, as well as the library in Cornelius.

The problem for Cashion’s is that for motorists trying to reach the store, they will have to navigate one of the two traffic circles being proposed, one north or one south of the intersection. Meanwhile no left turns will be permitted at the Catawba/Hwy. 21 intersection from any direction.

Whatever the final design is, the intersection will also handle traffic generated by a 5,700-square-foot QT convenience store on 3.16 acres where the now-closed Acropolis restaurant has sat empty for 16 months.

Funding for this project is part of the bonus allocation funds provided to municipalities along the I-77 toll lane project. However, any funds for such projects must be expended by 2020, meaning that the design and construction clock is ticking.

There had been suggestions that the twin circles design would be up for approval by the town and DOT in September, but this has not yet been confirmed.

Meanwhile, QT sits and waits and the Cashion family has invested well into the six figures to completely remodel the store.