Road projects in China Grove, Salisbury set for opening on Monday
Published 12:05 am Saturday, October 29, 2016
By Josh Bergeron
SALISBURY — Two long-awaited railroad underpass projects are set to open Monday.
In Salisbury, a Klumac Road underpass, extension and relocation will open after years of work. At the China Grove-Landis border, a railroad underpass will open on Kimball Road. Both projects primarily aim to reduce the potential for train-related accidents. The Klumac Road and Kimball Road underpass projects may also help alleviate traffic woes resulting from recent closures of numerous railroad crossings.
The Klumac Road underpass and extension will form a four-way intersection with Mooresville Road and South Main Street, continue south on the west side of Johnson Concrete, form a four-way intersection with Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and merge with the old section of Klumac Road.
The Kimball Road underpass and extension starts at a four-way intersection with South Main Street. It ends at a three-way intersection with North Chapel Street. NC DOT plans to extend Kimball Road further to intersect U.S. 29.
It’s unclear at what precise moment both roads will open. A spokesperson for NC DOT said both would open “Monday morning after rush hour.”
Local and state officials on Friday held ribbon-cutting ceremonies for both projects, which are part of a larger effort called the Piedmont Improvement Program. During both ribbon cutting ceremonies, NC DOT Deputy Secretary Keith Weatherly spoke about the benefits of the Piedmont Improvement Program — a $500-million project from Raleigh to Charlotte.
“The benefits of the PIP, as we call it, certainly make it safer and more reliable for train traffic to travel between those destinations,” Weatherly said. “It provides obvious advantageous for job growth and economic development along the corridor.”
All parts of the Piedmont Improvement Program will be complete in fall 2017, Weatherly said.
Klumac Road represents the larger of the two projects. It may also see the most traffic of the two projects.
Construction related to the Klumac Road project started years ago, when crews shut down an existing railroad crossing on Klumac Road. Then, work began to relocate the road to a site located to the south of the existing road. Planning and discussion started years before construction.
NC DOT Board Member Jake Alexander commented about the lengthy completion time during Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“For how long have we been looking, almost breathlessly, for Monday, when not only the bridge but the rail line and this new corridor through this part of Salisbury will open,” Alexander said. “I can’t overstate the importance of this to the city and to Rowan County.”
Speaking during the ribbon cutting, Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander called on the city to name Klumac Road the city’s new “innovation corridor.” It would be a stretch of land with buildings connected to city-owned Fibrant, she said.
The NC DOT website pegs the project’s total cost at $12.8 million.
At roughly $4 million, the Kimball Road project is less expensive of the two, according to NC DOT Rail Division Director Paul Worley. Similar to the Klumac project, it includes a road that’s been separated from railroad tracks. However, the Klumac project also relocated an existing road.
In comments during a ribbon cutting, Jake Alexander emphasized the importance of limiting at-grade crossings. He also called the railroad one of Rowan County’s greatest assets. He said there have been 90 at-grade crossings — where the road and rail lines sit at the same height — eliminated between Raleigh and Charlotte as part of ongoing efforts.
Since 1992 in Rowan County, a total of 29 public and private at-grade crossings have been closed.
“They are a small price to pay for what will be a major driver of economic development and safety for travelers and the public,” Jake Alexander said about eliminating at-grade crossings.
During the ribbon cutting, Landis Mayor Pro Tem Dorland Abernathy infused a bit of history into the comments and recalled a time when the area where a road sits was known as “the dugout.”
“This is where the folks came to be when they didn’t want anyone to know what they were doing, like pouring up their liquor or selling their drugs or carrying on with other things they could have been involved in,” Abernathy said.
There was a cave near “the dugout,” Abernathy said. As a child, he envisioned what it would be like to dig a tunnel under the railroad tracks.
“Little did we realize what would happen 60 years later,” he said.
Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.