Bridge closure delayed until June 27

CORNELIUS – Recent rainy weather has pushed back the Exit 28 bridge closure until the weekend of June 27. Town staff has been working to get the word out about the traffic impacts and subsequent five months of continued construction, but businesses are still concerned about the potential repercussions.

The Town of Cornelius in conjunction with the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce held an informational meeting, led by Project Manager Tyler Beardsley, on June 11 about the upcoming 32-hour bridge closure and to start a dialogue about business owners’ concerns.

“This is a regional road project,” Chamber President Bill Russell said. “The fact of the matter is, whether you live in Mooresville, Statesville, Huntersville or north Charlotte, you are affected by Catawba Avenue. This is Main Street of Lake Norman. This is very important as far as impacting business and commerce.”

The $6 million N.C. Department of Transportation project creates a Diverging Diamond Interchange over the Exit 28 bridge, with drivers briefly switching to the opposite side of the road to make traffic flow going on and off the interstate safer and more efficient. A multiuse bike and pedestrian lane will be constructed down the middle.

After the 32-hour bridge closing, starting midnight June 27 until 8 a.m. June 29, one lane on each side of the bridge is slated to be closed for the next five months. Depending on the weather and construction schedule, Nov. 1 is the estimated completion date for roadwork by Blythe Construction, with Cornelius doing some aesthetic work not affecting traffic in the months after.

“If this gets delayed, it could be extremely critical to our Christmas business and that would be really bad,” said Carole May, owner of Bebe Gallini’s. “As you know, in those two to three months, we do a lot of business and a big percentage for the year.”

The construction was originally supposed to begin last fall, but was delayed because of inclement weather.

Another downtown employee worried about what the town was going to do to help boost their businesses.

“Telling people to stay off Catawba is not exactly what we want people to do,” said Sonya Reid with Ashley Carol Home and Garden, adding they should come up with a catchy slogan, like “Brave the Bridge,” to entice people to come.

Just learning about the scheduled closures, May said she hasn’t yet planned what she will do other than offer extra incentives for people willing to “go through the hassle.”

May also expressed concern about the potential impacts of the construction on Bella Love events, which bring people from throughout the region to town. 

Bella Love public relations representative Jessica Boye, who was not at the meeting, said they are working with the town to talk about ways they can promote downtown, including officially branding it as Old Town Cornelius and creating a website and mobile application about things going on there. She said they plan to present the idea to the town commissioners in July having gotten positive feedback from town staff.

Assistant Town Manager Andrew Grant told meeting attendees that he understands the worry about the impact on events and businesses. The town itself has the potential to be affected, considering with the Cornelius Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture Department had previously scheduled the Symphony in the Park with fireworks at 6 p.m. June 28 at Bailey Road Park. The event will still go on as planned. 

“We are very sensitive to the all of the events happening and don’t want it to impact all of the good will and good efforts that Bella Love is doing,” he said. “We are sensitive to all businesses that run throughout the year, especially businesses for Christmas. ... It's painful. We do understand."