A project that transportation officials hope is the answer to morning congestion on Johnston Road at Interstate 485 is on target to open in June.
Construction crews working with the North Carolina Department of Transportation placed the bridge girders for the Johnston Road flyover this week. The flyover will eventually be the new access ramp for drivers going north on Johnston Road in Ballantyne to reach the I-485 inner loop toward Interstate 77. Drivers currently sit at a light in the far left lane of Johnston Road in the mornings waiting to access the ramp, but the flyover – in the far right lane – will allow drivers to continue their movement, cross above traffic on Johnston and connect with the inner loop ramp that southbound Johnston Road drivers use. There are currently an estimated 17,500 vehicles turning left on the I-485 ramp from Johnston Road, and officials expect that to increase to 23,500 vehicles a day using the flyover by 2035.
Some rolling roadblocks, where traffic is slowed by a pace vehicle so construction can continue without completely stopping traffic, occurred overnight this week so work could take place on the flyover, but otherwise drivers shouldn’t be affected by much of the remaining flyover construction.
“Drivers will not see a whole lot,” Brady McKenzie, NCDOT engineer, said regarding what’s left for the flyover. “Once the bridge girders are set over Johnston Road, the contractor will be working on the riding surface or bridge deck. The bridge is on schedule to open by the middle of June.”
Delays on Johnston Road waiting to access the inner loop have become one of the biggest gripes of Ballantyne drivers, but the flyover is designed to keep traffic moving and alleviate much of the delays. The extra lane being added in both directions of I-485 – and the auxiliary lane in the inner loop between Johnston Road and Pineville-Matthews Road – also will help move more traffic on the interstate, though traffic engineers have warned neither project will eliminate delays on what is one of the most congested roads in the state.
The lanes being added to I-485 will be wide enough for the NCDOT to eventually come back and divide them into four lanes – one general traffic lane in each direction and one toll lane in each direction. The lanes must be toll lanes, officials have previously said, due to air quality concerns in the area. The goal is to have the toll lanes implemented by 2017, but that date is not set in stone, McKenzie said in an email on Wednesday,
NCDOT officials previously said they would like to widen I-485 all the way to the Independence Boulevard exit and the future Monroe Bypass, if that project is to come to fruition. The current widening of I-485 will end at Rea Road.
The I-485 widening project is still on target to be completed in December, McKenzie said. Once the new lanes are open, crews will mill the old I-485 lanes and resurface them. The Community House Road bridge, which will connect the two sides of the Ballantyne road and create another avenue for drivers to bypass Johnston Road traffic, also will be completed by December, McKenzie said.