We have good news regarding two future bridges across I-85! Construction of the I-85 South Bridge between the Belgate shopping center (IKEA et al) and Innovation Park is on schedule. The bridge could open to traffic late this year. Meanwhile, Charlotte City Council has added construction of the I-85 North Bridge to the bond package going before voters in November.
In June, the City Council voted to shift $12,480,000 for the I-85 North Bridge from the planned 2018 bond to this November’s bond vote, said Bill Parks, the city’s capital budget manager. Federal/state funding for the project will total $7.4 million and will be budgeted in fiscal federal year 2017, which starts October 2016, Parks said.
City’s goal – better links between BLE and URP
Both bridges are part of a city plan to improve connectivity to the future LYNX Blue Line Extension. The light-rail line is under construction and is expected to begin service between Uptown Charlotte and UNC Charlotte in August 2017.
The I-85 South Bridge will improve access to the future University City Boulevard Station and parking deck on North Tryon Street. You can see the bridge taking shape on I-85 midway between the University City Boulevard and West WT Harris Boulevard interchanges.
The I-85 North Bridge will improve University Research Park access to the future JW Clay Boulevard Station and parking deck next to UNC Charlotte. The bridge and new roadway will tie into Doug Mayes Place in University Place to Louis Rose Place in University Research Park.
Reasons for accelerated funding
Parks said there were several reasons why the city staff decided to ask to fund the I-85 North Bridge this fall:
- The opening of the Blue Line Extension in 2017 will include a large commuter parking deck at JW Clay Blvd. and N. Tryon St. This will produce an immediate demand for increased access to the area.
- The need for this new connection is immediate and growing due to strong growth of area companies on the west side of I-85 and such urgency continues to be voiced by University City Partners.
- Earlier funding helps to realize the advantage of the design/build project delivery process and could allow the bridge to be complete 18 to 24 months earlier than current funding allows.
Why so long?
While the I-85 South Bridge is expected to open just 2 years after voters OK’d bonds to build it, the I-85 North Bridge may not open to traffic for five years, assuming voters approve the funding this fall. Parks said the extra time will be needed to design and construct a more complicated bridge and roadway system than needed for the I-85 South Bridge – including two separate bridge sections and relocation of a transmission tower.
The following websites have additional information about the project: