CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Work to finish the Interstate 485 beltway around Charlotte has been going on for 20 years.
So long, in fact, that part of the southern loop is already obsolete and work there is about to begin to widen it -- even though the complete loop is still nearly two years away from completion.
"This is the largest construction project in Mecklenburg County right now," said Gary Eudy, the North Carolina Department of Transportation engineer in charge of closing the loop.
The $150 million dollar project will connect the Northlake Mall area with the community of Mallard Creek.
The design includes new, so-called diverging diamond interchanges, like the one now under construction at Mallard Creek Road.
"Basically traffic, and this may sound confusing, will be driving on the left hand side of the road instead of the right side of the road," Eudy explained.
He knows the project well, having started his career working on the first leg of I-485 two decades ago.
"It'll be a big event in my life to be here for the ribbon cutting on this," he said.
Eudy is well aware of the delays that have plagued the project in the past and knows he is now the man in charge of finishing it by December of 2014.
"Barring terrible weather or really bad luck, we are going to finish on time and on budget," he said.
Davis Diggs is the DOT engineer who is building the new sprawling intersection where I-485 will link up with I-85. The interchange will cover some 100 acres and is a new design called a "turbine" interchange.
"It is unique to the area and I believe there is only one other in the country," said Diggs.
The turbine interchange gets its name from the many swirling ramps that allow drivers to move along at near full speed from one direction to another.
The idea behind the high tech interchanges is to cut down on the need to make left turns and to reduce traffic backups by as much as 60%.
Looking back over 20 years working on the project, Eudy said it took so long to get here because of the scope of the massive project. He said you just can't blame the crews who are building it.
"It had to be done in pieces and the politicians determine which pieces were done," he said.
And now, the promises, delays and frustration is all but over.
"This is going to be one of the most significant things that's happened in Mecklenburg County and the Metrolina Region ever," said Eudy.