Construction begins June 11 on Albemarle, Blair roads
by Morgan Smith
Mint Hill residents can expect delays this month on Albemarle and Blair roads near Rocky River High School, as road improvements begin to accommodate school traffic.
In order to prevent future traffic congestion from the growing school, North Carolina Department of Transportation officials say delays this summer on the roads will be inevitable. Construction is set to start June 11, just days after Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students start summer break.
“It will affect traffic,” Brett Canipe of NCDOT said. “There is no way around that. We are going to do our absolute best to not affect the morning and afternoon commutes. Some lanes will have to be closed on Albemarle and Blair roads – it’s really unavoidable.”
The $260,663 plan that has CMS footing the bill will add a new westbound left-turn lane from Albemarle to Blair, a new westbound right-turn lane from Albemarle to Rocky River Church Road and a second through lane on southbound Blair.
The plan was initially signed by CMS and NCDOT in May 2010, before the school first opened. But the recession stalled those plans, said Guy Chamberlain, CMS associate superintendent for auxiliary services.
“Shortly after the school was finished, or at least halfway finished, we put the project on hold,” he said. But “it’s not out in the middle of nowhere now, so there is a lot of traffic impact.”
Canipe said the project also was held due to some right-of-way access issues with neighboring properties – issues CMS had to work out before the project could move forward. And because of the scope of the project, summer construction was essential due to heavy traffic during early morning and afternoon school hours.
“That’s when intersections tend to clog up – that’s where the improvements need to be made,” he said, adding the school generates enough traffic to cause distress on the nearby traffic signal system and streets.
“Adding these turn lanes and extending the lanes gives more places for cars to be,” Canipe said.
“It’s an option to do some of the work at night, but as of right now, we’re not planning to do that,” Canipe said, although construction crews will wait until after morning and afternoon rush hour every day to help accommodate commuters.
The project should wrap up by early-to-mid August, just in time for Rocky River students to head back to school, something Linda Cruz, co-president for the Rocky River parent-teacher organization, said is essential.
“There generally is quite a bit of traffic before and after school,” Cruz said. “There are quite a few drivers of students and then parents, as well, and there is just one way in and one way out.”
Cruz said although there have been plans for the improvements since the beginning along with anticipation of heavier traffic, she said this summer is the perfect time to set them in motion, as the school also will have more student-drivers next year.
“The first year, there weren’t any seniors at the school. The second year they added near 700 students,” she said, adding that more students are driving now than when the school opened.