The Lowe’s interchange in Haywood County will finally get re-structured but not for a couple more years.
N.C. Department of Transportation plans to start reconstructing the exit onto N.C. 209 and leading to Paragon Parkway and Hospital Drive in summer 2014.
“The geometry of the exit right now is extremely confusing, and it’s tight,” said Brian Burch, a construction engineer with DOT.
Prep work has already begun on the estimated $24-million project. The Lowe’s side of the interchange won’t change much — the work is focused on the side of Taco Bell and Shoney’s.
DOT will purchase about five homes and 10 businesses that currently stand in the way of its construction. Of the total project cost, the department will spend about $9 million alone to purchase the right of way. Among them are the Burger King, Taco Bell, the Shell station, Shoney’s and David’s Home Entertainment.
“The intersection is confusing; there is no question,” said David Sutton, owner of David’s Home Entertainment. “I don’t want to have to relocate … (but) it needs to be done.”
Sutton did not know how much he would get from DOT for his business and land.
Once work begins, it will be another two to three years before its completed because the crew must work in phases to ensure that people have access to remaining businesses and can pass through the area with relative ease. DOT must also be conscious of students traveling to and from Tuscola High School each day, Burch said. It’s also the major interchange near MedWest-Haywood hospital and numerous doctor’s practices, the county’s Department of Social Services, and the entrance to Lake Junaluska.
“There is always the concern of access,” Burch said. “How is my routine going to be impacted?”
But, no matter how well thought-out the plan is, there will inevitably be delays.
“People have to be patient,” Burch said.
The exit has been on DOT’s to-do list for years because of its odd configuration, congestion and proneness to accidents. Some call the interchange “malfunction junction.”
The four-lane highway was built in the 1960s, blazing the first four-lane road to Waynesville. Roads were built differently then from today, said Reuben Moore, an DOT operations engineer.
“Things like that are not the way we are doing it when we do it today,” Moore said, citing the confusing manner in which exit and adjoining intersections were laid out.
Changes to the Interchange
While certain portions of the exit and its surrounding interchanges will remain the same, several key changes will make its more user friendly.
1: The main part of the project is a new on-ramp heading toward Waynesville. It will be longer, giving vehicles more time to gain speed before merging.
2: The access road to Taco Bell and the on-ramp heading toward Waynesville are too close together now and will be moved farther apart. With the current configuration, it can be difficult to tell which is the access road and which is the on-ramp for the highway.
3: Paragon Parkway will be realigned — moved over to sit on top of where Shoney’s is now. It will be aligned in an intersection with the on-ramp heading toward Waynesville.
4: Crabtree Road, which runs underneath U.S. 74, will be widened. A new train trestle will be installed to accommodate the wider road that passes under it.