Major Traffic Shift Set for Tuesday on U.S. 321 Widening Project

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UPDATE 2:37pm Tuesday March 1 – Lane shifts happening in Blowing Rock this afternoon  Photos: NCDOT

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A major step forward is expected to take place Tuesday for the U.S. 321 widening project in Blowing Rock. A shift goes into effect to split traffic just north of West Cornish Drive and then merge lanes back together near U.S. 321 Business/South Main Street. The split means north and southbound traffic will each be limited to their respective outside lanes.

Some additional pavement marking work is needed before the shift takes place Tuesday afternoon.

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

As has been the plan since the project was designed, the temporary access points that have been used through this area to allow left turns will be permanently closed off as part of this work. 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. By requiring drivers to initially turn right and then use the crossovers, it creates a safer travel environment to help reduce side impact crashes.

The good weather several weeks ago enabled crews to put down additional asphalt and pavement markings and that will accommodate the traffic shift. Although construction barrels will  primarily be utilized for the traffic shift itself, the contractor will also be setting barriers at some locations to separate traffic.

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 are urged to initially allow for some extra time to get to their destination while everyone adjusts to the change in traffic flow. Drivers are 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. Improvements include building additional through lanes, turning lanes at selected locations and straightening curves to provide a safer road.

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 and will make the road safer by improving traffic flow and reducing traffic congestion. The project will also enhance pedestrian connectivity from U.S. 321 to downtown Blowing Rock.

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