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US 74 bridge at Gaston-Meck county line to be replaced as part of $57 million project

NCDOT’s efforts to improve traffic flow and also create a safer path for other modes of transportation in the area also include more ideas.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — The Wilkinson Boulevard Bridge at the border of Mecklenburg and Gaston counties is getting replaced as part of a $57 million project to improve traffic flow in the area. 

The bridge replacement is part of the North Carolina Department of Transportation's plan to create a safer path for other modes of transportation in the area. 

The bridge runs along U.S. 74 and U.S. 29 over Lake Wylie. It's a busy section of road with NCDOT estimating that 25,000 vehicles use it daily. Wilkinson Boulevard is especially popular when Interstate 85 is jammed up during morning and afternoon rush hours. 

“It is currently only six lanes wide on the west side of the bridge, and five lanes wide on the east side, which is on the Mecklenburg County side," Marcus Thompson with NCDOT said. "The plan right now is to widen the bridge so it is six lanes all the way across. Having those extra lanes will basically stop it from bottlenecking.”

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The public involvement portion of the project closed Saturday.

“It’s usually the path that I take, it’s always been the congested little area that it is,” said Michael Guthrie, who lives in Dallas.

Paul Durfee also uses the bridge often, but he's typically riding a bicycle instead of driving. 

“I probably ride that bridge about once a week with my friends," he said. "It's always a little hairy in terms of potholes. There's a lot of traffic and obviously, there's no shoulder."

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That will change, as the project includes adding a multi-pathway separated by a concrete barrier on both sides of the bridge. 

“Having a good number of feet between you and traffic always makes you feel more comfortable,” Durfee said.

It will also make it easier for people to walk or bike between the Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park in Belmont and the Iswa Nature Preserve along the Catawba River.

Thompson said the new bridge will also be much more pleasing to the eye.

“They're also proposing to add some aesthetic treatments to the bridge as well, including decorative rails, some overlook, light posts,” he said.

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Those kinds of aesthetic upgrades are something Durfee appreciates.

“We are also out here trying to connect with nature, so seeing something pleasant enhances the ride,” said Durfee.

The $57 million project also includes raising the bridge at the midpoint to create a better clearance for boats. Improvements to the intersection of Catawba Street and Wilkinson Boulevard are also included.

“Reducing traffic congestion and allowing people to have a better commute is definitely going to be something that's always going to be important to us,” said Thompson.

Construction is set to begin in July of 2023.

Contact Jesse Pierre at jpierrepet@wcnc.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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