Kannapolis pedestrian tunnel project closer to completion

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 14, 2012

By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS — Loop Road in Kannapolis has been closed for a year so that a new storm water line and pedestrian tunnel could be built.
The $2.1 million project, partly funded by federal stimulus money, is overseen by the N.C. Department of Transportation.
But that hasn’t stopped residents from calling the city offices asking when the road is going to open again.
Public Works Director Wilmer Melton said the project has been delayed in part because NCDOT chose to award the two phases, water line construction and tunnel construction, to two different contractors.
Blythe Development Co. is building the tunnel, which will connect Village Park to the grounds of the N.C. Research Campus.
Saturday, workers were laying brick on the tunnel face in Village Park, while equipment moved earth back up onto the banks by Loop Road.
Carl Smith, construction superintendent, told the Post his men have been working six days a week for the last six weeks.
“The weather’s killing us,” Smith said.
Days of rain, and now freezing temperatures, are holding back the project.
“Paving has to be done at 45 degrees and rising,” Smith said. The same is true, he said, for pouring the concrete for new sidewalks.
Smith said that if the weather stays nice, Loop Road could be paved by the end of January.
“But the actual opening of the road is state-controlled,” Smith said.
Parks and Recreation Director Gary Mills said he expects the tunnel project to be finished with no further impact to his operations.
Reached by phone, Mills — whose office at Village Park is within a few hundred feet of the tunnel — said it will enhance connectivity for recreational walkers and park visitors.
Meanwhile, residents living on B Street near Village Park seem calm about the issue, though they’re tired of the detour.
Vince Layton, a resident of B Street, said he and his wife have to drive out of their way through nearby neighborhood streets to get back onto Loop Road.
Layton, who lives near Village Park, was positive about the project itself.
“(The tunnel) is going to be a good feature for events in the park, and for getting in and out safely, but it’s taking a long time to complete,” Layton said.
Paul Wiggins, another B Street resident, said he’s concerned about the cars that have been speeding down his road, even though it’s not part of the official detour.
“I wish a cop would come in here and just sit,” Wiggins said.
Just yards from his home, the road makes a 90-degree turn near the park’s playground.
“Kids play all along this street here, and a lot of older people go out walking,” Wiggins said.
For his part, Smith said he sympathized with people who were tired of detouring.
“I live near here,” Smith said. “Every day I go and get a cup of coffee I get the same questions.”
Asked about the speeding issues, City Manager Mike Legg said he didn’t doubt that traffic volumes were up on all of the roads near the detour.
He also expressed his concern about the reports of speeding.
“The good thing is, that’ll all go away here in the next 30 days or so,” Legg said.
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.