CORNELIUS, N.C. -- The clock is ticking for officials to solve a major traffic problem in Cornelius, which will only get worse once school starts in two weeks, but there's no guarantee anything will change.

An unfinished and confusing divergent diamond interchange on I-77 at exit 28 could cause traffic headaches for school buses, parents driving their kids to school and kids driving themselves in addition to regular, non-school traffic.

Right now 22 cars on average go through each light change.

"We all know that it's bad," said Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis while speaking Monday about the divergent diamond.

Once finished, officials said the interchange will increase traffic flow and reduce travel times.

The problem is it's not finished and it is a big part of the main east-west route through town to local schools. Two additional lanes aren't open and classes start in two weeks.

"Are we going to leave an hour early or 45 minutes early?" is one of the questions parent Corey DeMarco has when it comes to driving his daughter to school.

Options now on the table include eliminating left turns on the interchange during prime school hours.

"It would allow us essentially to move more cars more efficiently across the bridge," Travis said.

Also, trying to finish the extra lanes by the time school starts. That is an incentive Travis says should have been in the NCDOT's contract with Blythe Construction, but isn't.

"From the beginning I've been complaining about the construction schedule on the bridge. I just thought it was too long and now we're seeing the impact of that," Travis said.

Officials say having crews work overnight could triple the cost.

Another option is having police officers guide traffic through the interchange. Chief Bence Hoyle says they already tried that and it didn't work, plus they don't have the manpower and money to have eight officers work the intersection.

Town leaders, CMS, construction crews and the NCDOT are trying to find an answer and implement it before school starts, but there's no guarantee anything will change.

"Ultimately, safety is going to be paramount in any decision that we make," said Louis Mitchell, a division engineer with the NCDOT.

For now, DeMarco is expecting a back to school traffic mess.

"I didn't see a solution necessary that was brought forward in general that was going to drastically change anything," he said.

Blythe Construction is ahead of schedule when it comes to building the interchange.

The extra lanes aren't expected to be open until this fall.

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