Beatty Ford Road exit still years off after not making state list

Published 12:09 am Thursday, December 11, 2014

An I-85 exit at Beatty Ford Road is still a few years off after a new state formula didn’t score the project high enough to be funded through the 10-year transportation improvement plan.

Dozens of projects in Rowan County made the list, including the widening of I-85 and additional lanes on Julian Road. The new formula that decided the projects came from a 2013 law that was designed to take politics out of transportation project decisions.

Department of Transportation Division 9 Engineer Pat Ivey said the Beatty Ford Road exit could become a part of a future transportation improvement plan, but, for now, it didn’t score high enough to receive part of the $16 million in available funds for Division-9-level projects.

“The bottom line is the money ran out before we got down to the project,” Ivey said.

He said some projects in the state’s latest transportation improvement plan could be paused for various reason, which could allow the Beatty Ford Road exit to make the list.

One limiting factor for it not being included this year, Ivey said, is environmental studies and planning work haven’t been completed.

“That would all have to be done before we let the project for construction,” he said.

Though the state omitted a Beatty Ford Road interchange from the list, the road isn’t excluded completely from the state’s transportation improvement plan. The plan lists relocating Old Beatty Ford road from Bostian Road to Lentz Road in the current fiscal year — FY 2015.

Ivey said Beatty Ford Road and its bridge over I-85 would be built to accommodate a future interchange.

With Beatty Ford Road being planned as a future interstate exit location, Lee Withers, chairman of the Rowan-Cabarrus Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the most pressing issue is securing enough money to make construction possible, regardless of whether it includes state or federal funds.

Withers focused on the economic development opportunities as a reason for the project being funded.

“Commerce doesn’t happen without accessibility,” Withers said about the Beatty Ford Road exit. “So, if no one can access southern Rowan and no one can access what we do have, then how do we grow our micro-economy? We’ve got to make it easy for new business to want to locate to southern Rowan County.”

A presentation by the State Department of Transportation, posted on the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s website, lists the total pre-construction work needed for the exit at 70 months, which is just under six years. Some of the pre-construction work required would be relocating utilities — electricity and water — purchasing property, an environmental assessment and right of way design plans.

Besides giving Landis an Interstate exit, Withers said the Beatty Ford Road project would be a faster route than I-85 for motorists to get to the N.C. Research Campus in Kannapolis.

“We can only get closer to the top of the list, as time goes by and as projects happen,” he said. “The least we can do is use it as an economic development tool and say ‘this is what we’ve got planned.'”

Aside from the economic implications, State Rep. Carl Ford, a Republican whose district includes Kannapolis, China Grove and Landis, mentioned safety concerns. The two full exits closest to China Grove and Landis are eight miles apart. The closest exit to the north of China Grove is Webb Road. The closest to the south is at the Rowan-Cabarrus border — Lane Street.

“That’s a long stretch without an interchange,” Ford said in a previous interview, after the transportation plan was announced. “It’s turned into a safety issue too. We’ve had to fly some people out that weren’t in that bad of shape because we couldn’t get to them any other way.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246