State hopes to include Old Beatty Ford Road in interstate widening

Published 12:05 am Sunday, April 17, 2016

If N.C. Department of Transportation staff are successful, an interstate exit could be coming to southern Rowan sooner than expected.

DOT staff members are working to include an Old Beatty Ford Road interstate exit in an I-85 widening project in Rowan, said DOT Division 9 Engineer Pat Ivey.

The exit at Old Beatty Ford Road would be the only one for about three miles between China Grove and Kannapolis. It has also been described as an economic gateway to a rural portion of South Rowan. Division 9 Engineer Pat Ivey last week said significant steps remain before the Old Beatty Ford Road exit is included in I-85 widening plans, but initial work has been encouraging.

Ivey said it “really makes sense” to include Old Beatty Ford Road in the I-85 widening work that will occur in Rowan. He said construction on Old Beatty Ford Road is currently scheduled to start in 2022. If included in the I-85 widening, however, the exit could be just a few years away.

“I can certainty tell you we are working toward that,” Ivey said about the Old Beatty Ford Road exit.

DOT staff still have to complete an environmental document about the exit. Ivey said staff also have to talk to Lane Construction — picked to oversee widening work — about logistical details. One question Ivey mentioned: can contractors maintain the December 2018 deadline for I-85’s widening if an Old Beatty Ford Road exit is included?

A bit of positive news Ivey mentioned is that the Federal Highway Administration didn’t say it had any issues with lumping Old Beatty Ford Road into the I-85 widening. Funding Old Beatty Ford Road at an earlier date also won’t be a problem, Ivey said.

For years — decades even — local politicians pushed for the widening of I-85. That goal was accomplished in 2014 when I-85 was listed on the the state’s transportation improvement plan. Old Beatty Ford Road has also been a long-desired project. If included in I-85’s widening, an Old Beatty Ford Road exit could also be checked off the to-do list. As part of a separate project, construction crews are already scheduled to widen and straighten Old Beatty Ford Road.

“I think the great thing about an Old Beatty Ford Road exit for southern Rowan is that it becomes a huge economic driver and gives Rowan County a southern entrance,” said China Grove Mayor Lee Withers.

Old Beatty Ford Road could be a direct line from Landis — currently without an interstate exit — to I-85. Withers said Old Beatty Ford Road would also be the shortest distance from I-85 to the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis.

Withers reiterated the economic potential that could come with an Old Beatty Ford Road exit. It would be beneficial for all of southern Rowan rather than one of its three municipalities — China Grove, Kannapolis and Landis.

“The possibilities are just limitless,” he said.

If the exit is included in I-85 widening plans, it may also heighten importance of county commissioners’ plans to extend water and sewer lines to areas east of Landis and China Grove, according to Withers.

County Commissioners already plan to extend water and sewer pipes across I-85 before or during widening work for economic development purposes — a large, open tract of land called the Southland Development sits directly in the path of proposed water and sewer lines. The Old Beatty Ford Road exit would be adjacent to the Southland site.

County Commissioner Craig Pierce said the county is coordinating with DOT to ensure water and sewer lines can be placed under I-85 during the widening.

“It’s kind of still in the paperwork stage, but we are making progress,” Pierce said.

He said the county has a relatively small window to extend water and sewer lines across the interstate at the south end of Rowan. If the county doesn’t extend lines during the widening, costs will significantly increase to do the same thing at a later date, he said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.