DENVER â€” Virginia Luke and her husband moved from a trailer in Charlotte to seven acres of land off Caswell Road in 1975.
Looking over maps taped to the walls of Catawba Springs Elementary Schoolâ€™s cafeteria Wednesday, Luke traced with her finger plans for the future of N.C. 73.
The road could be turned into a four-lane rural parkway near Cowans Ford Dam, and itâ€™s likely Caswell Drive will be cut off from N.C. 73, and drivers would have to access it from Killian Road.
Luke was surprised at the plans and somewhat shocked at what could happen to the area around her.
â€œWeâ€™ve lived here since 1975,â€ she said. â€œWe moved here, moved into the country. What happened?â€
Luke and more than 100 other residents curious about plans for the highway gathered at the school Wednesday night to hear a presentation and look at the recommended changes.
HNTB, a consulting firm out of Charlotte, unveiled recommendations for the road in a series of public meetings held in Lincoln, Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties.
HNTB worked with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Centralina Council of Governments, several subconsultants and a steering committee composed of city and county planners, engineers and business leaders to come up with the recommendations. Public input was garnered from meetings and taken into consideration with creating the plans.
Bo Moore, a member of the Lincolnton-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and the N.C. 73 steering committee, said most residents are concerned about how the changes could affect them.
â€œFrom all aspects, itâ€™s really been very positive,â€ Moore said.
Itâ€™s also impressive, Moore said, that the N.C. 73 corridor study was the first in the history of North Carolina to be signed-off by the DOT project manager.
Todd Luckey, who has lived on N.C. 16 for 33 years, said he came to the meeting to see the ideas and find out how it would affect him. He travels to Lincolnton and Huntersville on N.C. 73 regularly.
â€œWith all the development going on, they have to do something,â€ Luckey said. â€œIâ€™m glad theyâ€™re doing it now. You canâ€™t stop development.â€
Population along N.C. 73 is expected to explode in the coming years. By 2025, the West Lake Norman areaâ€™s population will rise from 12,000 to 20,000, said Donal Simpson with HNTB.
And traffic along the road is expected to triple.
â€œThe growth is going to happen whether they do this or not,â€ said resident Jim Emmerson, pointing out the traffic â€œnightmareâ€ that parts of Huntersville have become. â€œSomethingâ€™s got to be done.â€
Preliminary recommendations for sections of the highway include:
Â· A new stretch of road would be constructed leading from the current N.C. 73 to U.S. 321 in Lincolnton. The road will serve as a bypass and be constructed as a four-lane divided highway on new alignment, as well as a four-lane suburban boulevard.
The suburban boulevard would include 120 feet of right of way with four foot bike lanes and six foot sidewalks on each side. This type of road is designed to be pedestrian friendly with plenty of space between the roadway and property line and trees between the sidewalk and curb.
Â· There are two alternative plans for the Ironton area.
The first would be a four-lane rural parkway, which includes at least 120 feet of right of way and hike and bike trails. There would be a 100-foot natural landscape buffer at new development.
The second would be a bypass with three signalized sections. There would be limited access.
Â· The Anderson Creek area â€” between Maxwell Farm Lane and Killian Creek â€” would become a four-lane rural parkway. It is also recommended that there be no new intersections or driveways on N.C. 73.
Â· In the West Lake Norman area, both a four-lane rural parkway and four-lane suburban boulevard would be used.
Additional intersections would be recommended, but there will be no new driveways on N.C. 73. There would possibly be a southern by-pass from Club Drive to Little Egypt Road with a major Neighborhood Center planned.
Â· A four-lane rural parkway will be built near Cowans Ford. From Club Drive to McGuire Nuclear Station there will be limited access.
The next step in the process is to take feedback received at the community meetings and make any revisions to the plan.
Local governments will be asked to make a commitment to the plan in May or June. It will then be turned over to DOT.
But the changes wonâ€™t happen immediately, officials said. It will be at least 10 years before things start happening.
And thatâ€™s still dependent on funding, said Moore, who urges residents to contact legislators.
â€œAll this is a dream,â€ he said. â€œWe need to get it funded.â€ by Alice Smith