CHARLOTTE, NC (Joe Marusak/The Charlotte Observer) - Interstate 77 toll lanes, the Independence Boulevard expressway and a $43 million effort to eliminate car-train collisions highlight the list of Charlotte-area highway projects scheduled to open in 2018.
Here's a look at those, other road projects that are finishing up and ones that will keep drivers waiting until at least 2019.
I-77 toll lanes
Work started on I-77 toll lanes from Lake Norman to Charlotte in November 2015 and is still set to end sometime in late 2018, as planned.
The $647 million project has angered drivers caught in frequent backups during the late-night and early morning construction. The worst backups have meant a two-hour drive from Charlotte to Mooresville – a commute that normally takes about 35 minutes.
Two toll lanes are being added in each direction between uptown Charlotte and Exit 28 in Cornelius. They're also known as express lanes. Between Cornelius and Exit 36 (N.C. 150) in Mooresville, one express lane is being added in each direction.
The existing "high-occupancy vehicle" lanes, one in each direction on the southern part of the project, are being converted to toll lanes.
The existing general purpose lanes along the 26-mile project will always remain free, state officials said. The project is neither adding nor removing any general-purpose lanes, but the lanes will be resurfaced to preserve the pavement and provide drivers with a smoother ride, according to the department.
Independence Boulevard expressway
Work that started in 2013 to turn 1.6 miles of Independence Boulevard into a multi-lane expressway is finally expected to wrap up.
The $51 million project from Albemarle Road (N.C. 24/27) to east of Wallace Lane in east Charlotte has included building interchanges at Sharon Amity Road and Idlewild Road and a bridge taking Conference Drive over Independence Boulevard. Each direction will feature four general purpose lanes and a bus lane.
Remaining work includes replacing some bridge joints and should be complete in late January, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation. Work on high-mast lighting also is progressing in coordination with Duke Energy.
Why an expressway? More than 70,000 cars and trucks drive Independence near Idlewild Road each day – a number projected to rise to as high as 91,000 by 2030, according to the DOT.
The city of Charlotte, meanwhile, will hold two open houses about its $8 million plan for sidewalk and bike connections on Independence from Briar Creek Road to Mason Wallace Park and Campbell Creek Greenway. The open houses are 10 a.m.-noon Jan. 20 at Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd.; and 6-7:30 p.m. Jan. 25 at Independence Regional Library, 6000 Conference Drive.
Sugar Creek bridge to eliminate car-train collisions
The N.C. DOT plans to finish a two-year, $43 million project in 2018 to build a bridge taking Sugar Creek Road over heavily used railroad tracks.
Through winter, the contractor will work on the concrete bridge deck and continue pouring bridge spans as weather permits.
The project has entailed numerous other road improvements, including realigning North Davidson Street to the intersection of Sugar Creek Road and Redwood Avenue.
Frazier Avenue realignment
Construction should finish by July on the project that coincides with CityLYNX Gold Line Phase 2 work. The second phase of the Gold Line will extend the street car system two miles west from the Charlotte Transportation Center to French Street, and a half-mile east from Hawthorne Lane and 5th Street to Hawthorne Lane and Sunnyside Avenue
The contractor is clearing and excavating land on the corner of West Trade Street and Frazier Avenue for the realignment. In February, new storm drainage is scheduled to be installed on West Trade Street. The contractor will then begin improving Frazier Avenue from Montgomery Avenue to West Trade Street.
The Frazier Avenue realignment will in part give people a safe way to the CityLYNX Gold Line Phase 2 project, according to the Charlotte DOT.
Barringer Drive bridge replacement
Some work has begun on the $2.8 million project and is expected to end in August.
The bridge spanning Irwin Creek is more than 60 years old. The new bridge will accommodate both cars and pedestrians and will have sidewalks and upgraded classic concrete bridge rail.
Barringer Drive will be closed between Beech Nut Road and Manchester Drive beginning in the first week of January.
North Tryon Business Corridor Project
The city plans to add crosswalks, sidewalks, planting strips, decorative lighting, bike lanes, public art and landscaping along North Tryon Street from Dalton Avenue to 30th Street and Church Street from 23rd Street to 29th Street.
Just as Kenilworth Avenue and Scott Avenue do as they head into Park Road, North Tryon Street and Church Street will become a set of "one-way pairs" from about 23rd to 29th streets, said Tom Warshauer of the city of Charlotte. North Tryon will handle outbound traffic and Church will serve inbound traffic along that stretch, he said.
Sealand Contractors Corp. is scheduled to begin construction in early January on the $13 million project and finish in early to mid-2020, according to the Charlotte Department of Transportation.
North Graham extension, I-277 bridges
Work will continue through 2018 on two other state projects of note: the $25.4 million, 2.9-mile extension of North Graham Street, and the $16.3 million rehabbing of 22 bridges in the I-277 corridor between Tenth Street and I-77 at the John Belk Freeway. Work on both should finish in 2019.
Arrowood Road/Nations Ford Road intersection improvements
The Charlotte Department of Transportation plans $2.4 million in improvements to the intersection, including road widening, improved storm drainage and new sidewalks, driveways, planting strips, bike lanes and accessible ramps.
Work is scheduled to begin in January on the intersection that has ranked in the top 10 for wrecks four of the last five years, according to the department. The scheduled completion date was unavailable last week.
Michael Baker bridge replacement
The bridge on Michael Baker Place spans Briar Creek and is more than 60 years old. The new $2.6 million bridge will accommodate cars and pedestrians.
Construction is expected to start in January and last six months.
25th Street connection
Construction is expected to start in mid-2018 on a bridge taking 25th Street over Upper Little Sugar Creek. The $5.9 million project will connect Brevard Street to North Davidson Street and make it easier for people to get to the Villa Heights neighborhood and 25th Street light rail station.
Orr Road Extension