Business owners upset after DOT changes I-85 widening plans in Cabarrus

CONCORD, N.C. (WBTV) - Officials from three governing bodies in Cabarrus County have written to the state Secretary of Transportation to say that a change in the plans for the I-85 widening project will not only hurt local businesses, but will create safety issues for residents.

Several local business owners went to the Concord City Council to ask for help after a change of plans by the Department of Transportation that now calls for the closing of the Highway 3 Concord Lake Road bridge over I-85.

Those business owners include Mark Whitley of Floor Pavilion, Gary Holman of the UPS store, and Ruchik Mehta of the Marathon store.  They say that the closing of the Concord Lake Road bridge will harm their business, and raised safety concerns for emergency responders.

"Without this traffic on this bridge, there is no business in this area," Mehta said. "I'm hopeful that the Secretary of Transportation can understand the situation and can revise their decision."

City leaders in Kannapolis and Concord, as well as county commissioners for Cabarrus County have expressed concern and have asked the DOT not to close the bridge.

"We fully understand NCDOT's rationale for considering this alternative but we believe this decision will have substantial negative impacts on our business community," Kannapolis Mayor M. Darrell Hinnant said in a letter. "Unlike the planned closures of the Brantley Road and Moose Road bridges in northern Kannapolis, which are mostly inconveniences, a Lake Concord Road bridge closure has the potential for devastating effects on the businesses that rely on the accessibility and traffic flow this bridge provides."

Hinnant requests in the letter that the NCDOT reconsider the proposed closure and revert back to its original plan to replace the bridge while leaving travel lanes open on Lake Concord Road.

Document: Click here to read the full letter

"The Cabarrus County Board of Commissioners, Cabarrus County Chamber of Commerce, and businesses located in the immediate area ask that North Carolina Department of Transportation reconsider its revised plan for this project," wrote Cabarrus County Commission Chairman Stephen Morris in a letter to Secretary Trogdon.  "The new plan removes and replaces the bridge with no alternative or diversion bridge. Without the ability for traffic to move freely through the area, the project will strain the economic viability of one of the most residential- and commercial-dense areas of the county, potentially impact public safety providers' response times, and cause additional traffic congestion on an already busy network of roads. Additionally, we have serious concerns about the lack of notification and opportunity for public feedback."

WBTV contacted the Department of Transportation and received the following reply:

Originally, plans called for this bridge to be built in two phases while accommodating traffic. In order to mitigate the schedule of the mainline widening of I-85, closing the bridge completely would be necessary. Having a shorter construction schedule will result in delivering the full capacity of the I-85 corridor about six months to a year earlier than anticipated. This will also decrease the overall construction time for the Concord Lake bridge, and for the roadway.

We have held joint coordination meetings with representatives from Cabarrus and Rowan counties – first responders, school officials, etc. We've also engaged with the cities of Concord and Kannapolis to solicit comments.

Our schedule calls to close the bridge In October for approximately one year. We will have a signed detour in place for motorists.

Business owners and city leaders question that DOT statement, saying there has been a lack of communication from DOT.

Concord Mayor Scott Padgett wrote a letter this week to Secretary James Trogdon in which he says that "it appears that recently some of our communications channels have broken down," and that the "City Council was not provided a chance to comment on the change in plans."

Padgett goes on to ask Secretary Trogdon to "quickly reassess this decision," citing "serious public safety implications."

Copyright 2017 WBTV.  All rights reserved.