Connector road nears completion

Shortcut a blessing, say some Northlakes residents
Jun. 18, 2014 @ 08:14 AM

At least twice a week, Nancy McCaslin ventures out from her home in Northlakes and heads to the Shoppes at Rivercrest, home of the Granite Falls Walmart and other retail outlets. But to get there, she must wait out the traffic at the intersection of  U.S. 321 and Grace Chapel Road.

"Sometimes, you have to wait five minutes or more for the light to change," said McCaslin, who lives on Clearlake Drive.

But soon, once work is done on a connector road from Grace Chapel Road to New Farm Road near the Walmart, she will soon be able to avoid U.S. 321 altogether.

"It's going to be very handy," she said. "I think it will be good for us over here."

The road, which has yet to be named, has been under construction since March 2012 and is due to be completed in August. The 1.232-mile, two-lane road was designed to alleviate traffic on U.S. 321 between Walmart and Grace Chapel Road, which is nearing it's 40,000-car-per-day capacity, Granite Falls planner Greg Wilson said. The lessened traffic load will also make it easier for the large trucks coming in and out of the MDI plant, which sits between Grace Chapel Road and New Farm Road.

But for the many residents who live off Grace Chapel Road, the convenience factor is huge.

Weather has slowed progress on the road, which originally was to be completed in September 2013. Heavy rains last summer pushed the target date to November, then engineering difficulties and redesigns delayed it, and winter weather caused further delays, said Bethany Elmore, assistant resident engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation.

"The dirt never dried out, and we can't pave in winter," she said."It put us behind with grading and excavation.

"If everything goes correctly, with no excessive rain delays, we hope to be completed by Aug. 1."

The road is designed to carry about 6,800 cars per day, Elmore said. James Varney, 71, who lives on Valley Run Street in the heart of Northlakes, figures to be among them regularly.

"To me, it's going to be so much better going to Walmart and Boone," Varney said. "Anytime I head north, I'll be using it."