By Eric C. Deines
The proposed road improvements surrounding Lowe’s Motor Speedway are now estimated to cost about $65 million and may see construction complete in 2011.
The latest dollar figure is under the $96 million estimated in December, but still over the $60 million incentives committed by Concord and Cabarrus County in November 2007.
Residents got an early look at some of the proposed major road improvements last week.
There are still several options included in the plan, said Paul Koch, an engineer with Stantec Consulting, the firm hired by the speedway when N.C. Department of Transportation estimates proved too lengthy for the project.
“We’re pretty early in the process,” said Stantec engineer Paul Koch, “but we’re on a fast track.”
Koch said the proposed improvements include:
• The realignment of Bruton Smith Boulevard to the intersection of Morehead Road and U.S. 29;
• pedestrian walkways and pedestrian tunnels under both Morehead Road and U.S. 29; and
• replacement of the Rocky River Bridge on U.S. 29.
“By shifting the roadways into one intersection, it will help resolve some traffic issues,” Koch said of the realignment of Bruton Smith Boulevard.
He also said the improvements may include changes to stoplights and intersection all along Bruton Smith Boulevard to Interstate 85.
But for residents and property owners near Lowe’s Motor Speedway whose land lies in or near the line of the alignment, there are some concerns.
“It looks small and unobtrusive on this map, but six lanes is going to be massive,” said Rebecca Murphy, who moved to the area with her husband Tim about 10 years ago and whose home sits near the proposed realignment.
In essence, the realignment plan proposes that Bruton Smith Boulevard veer south near Hendrick Honda of Concord. The road would dip about a half-mile from its previous route, around a mobile home park and campgrounds to meet head-on with Morehead Road.
The realignment, said engineers, will be a “super street” in that the traffic flow will be more efficient, not allowing left turns onto Bruton Smith Boulevard and prohibiting left turns from Bruton Smith Boulevard onto U.S. 29 heading north.
Other residents at the meeting said they were happy with the current flow of traffic at the speedway.
The road divides up the land owned by the Little family, who run a campground for race fans on a large piece of the property.
The proposal was designed by Stantec Consultants, the engineering firm hired by Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
The City of Concord is serving as the lead agency on the project, as the city and the county both agreed to fund the projects as part of a deal to keep the speedway in Cabarrus County.
The city and Cabarrus County agreed to make infrastructure improvements in the amount of $80 million around the speedway after Speedway Motorsports CEO Bruton Smith said he would move the facility out of Concord.
Smith’s comments were in reaction to a skirmish with Concord over a $60 million drag strip he proposed to build near the speedway’s dirt track.
The drag strip is now under construction and on course for a September 2008 opening.
As part of the proposed incentives, the city and county also agreed to fund the $2 million noise abatement structures at the drag strip.
The proposed road improvements go hand-in-hand with $200 million worth of improvements Smith said he planned for Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
• Contact Eric C. Deines: 704-789-9141.