The South Boulevard exit at Interstate 277 uptown was designed like a rural interchange, with wide spaces and a cloverleaf design to move cars quickly.
But with the arrival of the NASCAR Hall of Fame nearby, the city of Charlotte is revamping the interchange with new exit ramps. It's also adding pedestrian and bike paths across the Caldwell Street bridge, and new decorative grass medians along other roads.
The plan is to make the bridge and interchange more pedestrian friendly, and to open new land, likely for development.
Work on the $21.4 million plan began two weeks ago. It's scheduled to be finished in 2010, when the hall of fame opens.
The most significant change will be removing the cloverleaf design at the interchange. Motorists driving toward uptown on the Caldwell bridge can today use a cloverleaf to merge onto I-277 toward I-77. They can make the merge onto I-277 without stopping at a traffic light.
Under the new plan, that exit ramp will be eliminated. Motorists will instead make a left turn across Caldwell Street at a new traffic light on the north side of the bridge.
Shrinking the footprint of the interchange will create four small parcels of land for development. The land belongs to the N.C. Department of Transportation, but would be deeded to the city for sale. The N.C. DOT would be paid $5 million for the land if it is sold, said Kruti Desai, a senior project manager with the city.
Desai said contractors are doing underground utility work to prepare the site. They will likely close the interchange at the end of the year, and motorists will be detoured to other nearby I-277 interchanges.