The North Carolina Department of Transportation recently released its list of regional impact projects that are likely to be funded over the next decade. 

North Carolina divides its transportation improvement projects into three categories based on the size and scope of the work needed. In April, NCDOT identified 77 statewide mobility projects -- none of which will impact Lincoln County -- that will share 40 percent of the state’s available funding for road projects. The remaining 60 percent of transportation improvement funding will be split equally between regional impact projects and other, more localized projects identified at the division level. 

Last week, NCDOT identified 138 regional highway, aviation, ferry, rail and transit projects that are scheduled to be completed within the next decade at a total cost of $2.7 billion. The list includes roughly $65 million worth of transportation improvements split among eight different projects scheduled in Lincoln County. 

Two of the most significant Lincoln County projects from a cost standpoint involve the construction of a new freeway that will allow traffic travelling east or west through Lincoln County to get from Highway 150 to Highway 73 without having to pass through downtown Lincolnton. Combined, the two portions of the project are estimated to approach a cost of nearly $150 million, with right-of-way acquisition scheduled to begin in 2029 and construction to follow soon after. 

“These are both projects that have long been imagined as kind of a southern bypass of Lincolnton,” Lincoln County planning and inspections director Andrew Bryant said. “Essentially, these projects become very important because they enable Main Street in Lincolnton to remain functional over time by pulling those pass through trips off of that route. These projects kind of work hand-in-hand with maintaining mobility along Main Street over the next 30 or so years.” 

There are two other projects on the list that are also designed to help facilitate the movement of traffic along East Main Street in Lincolnton. 

The first project, which comes in at a cost of over $15 million, calls for intersection improvements where East Main Street meets North Generals Boulevard. These improvements include the construction of dual left turn lanes headed southbound on Generals Boulevard and westbound on East Main Street, as well as additional southbound receiving lanes on Generals Boulevard.

The other project, which comes with a $14.5 million price tag, calls for converting an existing two way left turn lane on East Main Street into a median. The project also consists of the synchronization of traffic signals along East Main Street to ensure a better flow of traffic.

“Those two projects are really tied at the hip,” Lincoln County planning and inspections director Andrew Bryant said. “Most of the improvements in that area will be focused on improving access management in that area to try to maintain the capacity of East Main Street. That involves installing medians with appropriate left turn locations and synchronization of the signal system all the way from Generals Boulevard to where Highway 27 and Highway 150 split. Those are two separate projects, but they’ve been programmed together and the work will occur at the same time.”

Both of those projects are scheduled for construction in 2027 and a third project along East Main Street, which calls for the construction of a dedicated northbound left turn lane on Lithia Inn Road at a cost of $2.5 million, is scheduled for construction in 2026. 

The second most expensive Lincoln County project on the list of regional traffic improvements will cost in excess of $50 million. The scope of the project is fairly simple, however, widening Highway 73 from two to four lanes near East Lincoln High School from Ingleside Farm Road to Highway 16. Right-of-way acquisition pertaining to the project is scheduled to begin in 2027 with construction to follow. 

NCDOT also has plans to widen Highway 16 Business to a four-lane divided highway from Fairfield Forest Road to Webbs Road at a cost of nearly $20 million. This is another project that isn’t scheduled to start until at least 2029.

The final Lincoln County project on the list, which happens to be the first scheduled for construction, calls for the construction of a grade separated interchange where Highway 16 Bypass intersects Optimist Club Road. The project comes with a $13 million price tag and construction is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2022. 

NCDOT is now in the process of ranking the projects in its division category in order to decide which ones to fund. That list of funded projects is scheduled to be released in January and, in the meantime, Lincoln County residents can provide input on where traffic improvements are needed by contacting the local NCDOT division at (980) 552-4200. 

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