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Public gets first look at Old Beatty Ford Road exit

By Josh Bergeron
josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

LANDIS — Dozens of locals on Thursday got a first look at plans for a new Interstate 85 exit at Old Beatty Ford Road in southern Rowan.

A long-desired project for public safety and economic development, the Old Beatty Ford Road exit has been included in plans for I-85’s widening. The exit will be located at a different site than the existing Old Beatty Ford Road interstate bridge. N.C. DOT contractors will straighten the road, moving it north of its current site near I-85.

It’s one of two full interstate exits that will be created during I-85 widening. The other is planned for N.C. 152 in China Grove, which two partial exits will be changed to one.

On Thursday, the N.C. Department of Transportation held a public meeting to receive public input about plans for an Old Beatty Ford Road exit.

N.C. DOT staff showed members of the public two options for the Old Beatty Ford Road exit. Both include roundabouts instead of stoplights for cars entering and exiting I-85.

Jonathan Henderson of HDR Engineering said roundabouts are a safer, more efficient option than stop lights. As a result of the roundabouts, a bridge over I-85 will be slimmer than if the exit included stoplights, Henderson said.

The most significant difference between the two exits would be the length of exit ramps. One option provides the longest ramps for cars exiting I-85 in both directions. A second option shows a long ramp for cars traveling north on I-85 and exiting at Old Beatty Ford Road. The second option also includes a long ramp for traffic entering I-85 southbound.

N.C. DOT Engineer John Williams said the second option is focused more on traffic headed to and coming from Charlotte than the first. Because of land acquisition costs and its layout, the second option is projected to be expensive, Williams said. Costs between the two options, however, aren’t different enough to affect the final choice, he said.

County Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds was among the several public officials who attended Thursday’s public meeting. He commented that the new interstate exit could bring economic growth that Rowan residents have been asking for.

“Folks in Rowan County have asked for growth and it’s coming,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for us to direct growth and maximize the benefit for everyone, whether they live in Landis, Cleveland or Faith or East Spencer. This could be an economic boon for everyone that lives in the county.”

Bostian Heights Fire Chief Mike Zimmerman, also China Grove’s interim chief, said the Old Beatty Ford Road exit is much-needed to respond to incidents on I-85. Currently, first responders have to drive to the Lane Street exit in Kannapolis to respond to incidents in southern Rowan, Zimmerman said.

Some attendees of Thursday’s public hearing were unhappy about the Old Beatty Ford Road exit. However, people who spoke to the Salisbury Post were more upset about the fact that an interstate exit was coming rather than its design.

Greer Daugherty, who lives nearby, said the Old Beatty Ford Road area is currently rural in nature. The exit and any accompanying economic development would disrupt the character of the area. Daugherty said he’s lived in the area for 80 years.

“I’m just upset that they’re going to ruin the only, good natural land that’s left just because someone wants to put some buildings on it,” he said.

Jerry McCullough, who lives east of I-85, said he’d like an access road to run from the current bridge site to the new I-85 exit. Once the current bridge gets closed, McCullough said he’d have to travel a much longer distance to cross the interstate.

Roundabouts were the main design feature attendees seemed to dislike. Amber Gainey said they’re more difficult to navigate for North Carolina motorists than stoplights.

“I really just don’t like them,” she said.

Zimmerman said he’d like to see a wider bridge than the one shown on Friday’s designs.

Any local residents who wish to comment on the Old Beatty Ford Road exit have until Nov. 3.

Residents can view a copy of the public meeting map at www.ncdot.gov/projects/publicmeetings/

For additional information, contact Diane Hampton at dkhampton@ncdot.gov or 336-747-7800.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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