Loop Road will remain closed for months

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 10, 2011

By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS — Loop Road remains closed in Kannapolis, a yawning gap cut like a canyon through the four traffic lanes.
But at the bottom of the hill, life goes on at Village Park in spite of the fact that one of the city’s main thoroughfares has been closed for weeks and will remain closed for months to come.
Following installation of a storm waterline, crews will build a pedestrian tunnel connecting Village Park with downtown sidewalks on the opposite side of the street.
That project carries an estimated price tag of $1.2 million.
Both projects are being paid for by a mix of federal stimulus dollars, state funds and bond revenues.
“This project is going along very smoothly, which is great when you’re juggling multiple construction projects,” said Assistant City Manager Eddie Smith.
As of Tuesday, over half of the storm waterline had been installed in the trench.
“Expected completion time is still on target for the late fall,” Smith said. Sunny weather has helped the project move along quickly.
Kannapolis Parks and Recreation Director Gary Mills said that construction hasn’t hampered events at Village Park.
While crews dig through earth and rock under Loop Road, others have been grading and paving the parking lot at the Village Park events center, which is also home to Parks and Recreation’s offices.
New bushes and trees add green space to the parking lot, which has 81 spaces — more than the old lot.
The driveway leading into the lot has also been widened, and there are now lights in the parking lot.
That parking lot is used as a trolley stop and for handicap parking during events.
“It’s much more usable and aesthetically pleasing,” Mills said.
The road construction hasn’t made much of an impact on park events, especially last weekend’s opening of the city’s free summer concert series.
About 8,500 people came to see country singer Jason Michael Carroll on Saturday, Mills said.
There were some issues with parking that many cars, he said, but staff were meeting to discuss those concerns.
The biggest event coming up is next month’s Charlotte Symphony Orchestra concert.
The annual July 4 weekend concert has drawn well over 10,000 people in each of the last two years.
“Obviously, it’s inconvenient for visitors coming to Village Park to come around the north side of Loop Road and realize they can’t get directly to the park,” Mills said.
But both Mills and Smith said the city had worked hard to let residents know, through signs and other means, how to navigate while Loop Road is closed.
“It’s an inconvenience for everyone, but when it’s all done, it’ll be a nice improvement,” Mills said.
“People are being patient, understanding that this is progress,” Smith said.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.