Public meeting allows residents to weigh in on Julian Road changes
KANNAPOLIS — Big changes are coming to Julian Road, and landowners and residents in the area have mixed feelings.
Many voiced either excitement or disdain about the tentative plans during a public meeting hosted by the North Carolina Department of Transportation on Tuesday night.
At the informal question-and-answer session, plans for two separate projects were discussed. One is the closure of the Henderson Grove Church Road rail crossing; the other is the widening of Julian Road from U.S. 601 to Interstate 85.
Officials say the Henderson Grove Church Road rail crossing must be closed as the rail line is part of the proposed southeastern U.S. high-speed rail corridor. To increase safety, Federal Rail Administration guidelines and DOT policy call for closure or grade separation at high-speed rail crossings.
Renovations to Julian Road are based on safety. The crash rate for the area is more than double the statewide and critical rates: 628.43 crashes per 100 million vehicles. Statewide rates are 248.47 crashes per 100 million vehicles.
Proposed improvements to Julian Road include an extended sidewalk; a traffic signal at the Julian Road-Corporate Circle intersection; new, extended and restriped turn lanes; and more.
Tuesday’s meeting started at 4 p.m. By 4:30, more than 20 people had come to view the plans and voice opinions on the changes.
Deacon Berlin Torrence and his wife, Julia, members of Henderson Grove Baptist Church, came to see how the traffic changes would affect their church.
“We knew it was going to be done, but we need to know where and what. We don’t like to be in the dark,” Berlin Torrence said. “People at church are going to be asking.”
Kirby Ritchie, who owns land in the area of the proposed connector road in the Henderson Grove project, said he fells the project is a waste of tax dollars.
“Why would you put a two-mile road in when you could put a quarter-mile or a third of a mile road in?” Ritchie asked. “It’s going to destroy not only some of my land, but I’ve got neighbors that I think a whole lot of, and it’s going to destroy their farm.”
His brother, Floyd Ritchie, was equally opposed.
“I didn’t like it when it was first proposed several years back, and I like it even less now,” he said. “… It’s got me concerned. We’ve got a cousin that that road splits his property right down the middle. He’ll have nothing left on either side.”
Brad Bost and Tim Ervin, who own businesses near where the new traffic light will be, had much more positive views of the upcoming changes.
“This is much needed to have the light here at Julian and West Ritchie. It’s been needed for a long time,” said Bost, who owns a trucking business. “It should improve the traffic flow all the way through.”
Both men said West Ritchie is used as a shortcut to get to the interstate from Jake Alexander Boulevard. That leads to congestion in the mornings and evenings, with a multitude of accidents, they said.
“The widening to four lanes in that area and the turn lanes will be a great improvement to all of us,” said Ervin, owner of a trailer business in the same location. “It will be better for our employers and customers. … This is just the way we would have drawn it, probably.”