Traffic not as bad as expected for first week

CORNELIUS – Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools representatives said their preparation paid off and no major issues related to the Exit 28 construction traffic have occurred.

“We really planned before the school year started, and there have not been any major negative impacts,” said CMS Media Relations Specialist Yaviri Escalera. “The buses have been making their way through the traffic like the other vehicles, and we made sure reroutes were done.”

Prior to school starting Aug. 25, officials from the N.C. Department of Transportation, Town of Cornelius and CMS met to discuss what they considered could be detrimental effects to how area schools run if something wasn’t done about the Exit 28 bridge construction for the Diverging Diamond Interchange project.

At the time, officials had visions of school buses coming in very late and delaying class time or worse, parents calling because their child still hadn’t made it back home at a reasonable hour after school ended.

Assistant Town Manager Andrew Grant reported traffic signals malfunctioned the morning of Aug. 25 around the DDI, which caused congestion along the bridge and Westmoreland Road. Officers helped clear it. 

Because of its location with so many buses having to use the Exit 28 bridge, Cornelius Elementary was thought to be the school most heavily affected. No major problems were reported.

Cornelius Elementary Assistant Principal Elizabeth Brammer emailed parents early Monday morning to let them know the majority of the buses made it in before the 8:45 a.m. start time and all of them had arrived by 9:15 a.m.

“All students had the opportunity to eat breakfast, buy agendas and none of these students were marked tardy,” Brammer’s email stated.

Bailey Middle School, also thought to have potential problems because of its start and end times during rush hour, also reported only usual first-day kinks.

Principal Chad Thomas said carpool was fine both the first and second day of school and that bus arrival showed improvement the second day, which is normal. The only thing they hoped to improve was getting school buses off campus earlier.

“We like buses to leave our lot at 4:25 p.m. on a normal day,” he said. “The last bus left our lot at 4:40 p.m. yesterday (Aug. 25), which is really not unusual for the first week.”

School board member Rhonda Lennon, who called the initial meeting with project representatives earlier this month, said they have been dealing with the usual hiccups, but are doing their best. She said they won’t be in a regular routine until after the first week and encourages everyone to be patient and still have their children ride the bus.

The Cornelius Police Department has continued to make efforts to ensure things run smoothly both for schools and commuters. Officers have been monitoring the area and directing traffic as needed at key intersections. Betsy Shores, of the department, said they will continue to do that in the mornings and afternoons until another lane is opened on the bridge.

Because of this, Town Manager Anthony Roberts reported the town has received positive calls from residents acknowledging the improvements to the area.

Things may get better soon with an additional lane going eastbound scheduled to open Sept. 17, according to representatives of NCDOT and Blythe Construction, which are overseeing the project. Another westbound lane is projected to open in mid-October. The town has also offered more recommendations for signal timing changes and lane modifications, Grant said. 

Town officials have also asked that the two entities give a cost estimate to expedite the project further. That number has still not been given to the town, Roberts said, but even with the reported future lane openings, they’d like to hear it.

Though the project is ahead of schedule, it has been a bottleneck for travelers along West Catawba Avenue and Catawba Avenue as well as other areas of town, including U.S. 21 and Westmoreland Road as drivers look for other routes.


Wreck involved charter students

HUNTERSVILLE – Seven students from Lake Norman Charter School were involved in a wreck on the morning of Aug. 26 on Verhoeff Drive. The school posted a message on its website thanking police and EMS for their response and assuring parents that the students transported to medical centers were released. WSOC-TV reported that the students were in a pickup truck that collided with a car. Police charged the 18-year-old driver of the truck with driving with a revoked licensed, the news station reported.