Significant Traffic Shift Takes Place for US 321 Widening Project, ‘A Major Step Forward’

Published Thursday, March 3, 2016 at 2:03 pm
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The inside lanes are closed to traffic with the new traffic shift. Photos by Ken Ketchie

A major step forward took place this afternoon for the U.S. 321 widening project in Blowing Rock. A traffic pattern change now has drivers using the outside lane in both directions between just north of West Cornish Drive and near U.S. 321 Business/South Main Street.

The split allows the contractor to close off the median and inside lanes in both directions to safely continue construction on the median, including the designated crossovers and the remaining median curbs and gutters.

As had been planned from the start, the shift means the temporary access points that had been used through this area to allow left turns are now permanently closed off. Traffic will instead be directed to designated crossovers to allow traffic in both directions to turn left.

The location of the designated crossovers are U.S. 221/321 Business/Main Street near Chetola (signalized); Little Springs Road at the Food Lion Shopping Center; Sunset Drive (signalized); Church Street; Ransom Street; U.S. 321 Business/South Main Street; Tanger Outlets (signalized); and at Samaritan’s Purse. Requiring drivers to initially turn right and then use the crossovers creates a safer travel environment to help reduce side impact crashes.

In the upcoming weeks, drivers can also expect a similar traffic shift between West Cornish Road and the Tanger Outlets shopping area.

Due to the new traffic pattern, motorists should initially plan to need extra time to get to their destination while everyone adjusts to the change in traffic flow. Drivers are also urged to use extreme caution while traveling through the work zone for their own safety, as well as their passengers, travelers in other vehicles, and for the construction crews working close to the roadway.

The $66-million project is widening U.S. 321 from Blackberry Road in Caldwell County through Blowing Rock to the Tanger Outlet Center just north of U.S. 221 in Watauga County. Upgrades include building additional through lanes, adding turning lanes at selected locations and straightening curves to provide a safer road. The project will also enhance pedestrian connectivity from U.S. 321 to downtown Blowing Rock.

When the Blowing Rock portion of the project is substantially completed, which is projected to be this summer, these designed improvements should increase the roadway’s vehicle capacity. That will make the road safer by improving traffic flow and reducing traffic congestion.

For more details or assistance, call the project information line at 828-964-3260. For real-time travel information, call 511, visit the Traveler Services section of NCDOT.gov or follow NCDOT on Twitter.

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