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Major Highway Project Completed

After five years of construction, all lanes opened Thursday (December 21) at the massive Interstate 77 and Interstate 40 “whirlpool” interchange in Statesville, state highway officials said.  

“Right on time for holiday travel, the N.C. Department of Transportation has reached a significant milestone on the I-40/I-77 interchange project in Iredell County,” NCDOT spokesperson Jen Goodwin said in a news release. “All travel lanes in the project limits are open and in their final pattern, about 10 days ahead of schedule”.

The “whirlpool” or, as the state calls it, “partial turbine” interchange replaced a woefully outdated cloverleaf interchange built in the late 1960s. The old interchange “outlived its original purpose,” NCDOT officials said on the I-40/I-77 interchange project page.

The interchange, about 25 miles east of Hickory, is a key component of North Carolina’s highway network because it links two of the most heavily traveled interstates crisscrossing the state. About 70,000 drivers a day use the interchange, a number expected to leap to 110,000 a day by 2035, according to NCDOT.

The $260 million project included Connecticut contractor Lane Construction Corp. widening nearly 7 1/2 miles of both interstates from four to eight lanes.

Crews also built the whirlpool interchange at I-77 and I-40 and replaced bridges over I-77 at East Broad Street and Davie Avenue.

The whirlpool interchange design spreads entrance and exit ramps much farther out than the former interchange. Vehicles from one interstate no longer spill into the lane used by others trying to access the other highway.

The design also typically eliminates left-lane exit ramps, highway officials said. Drivers use safer and longer right-lane exits and loop ramps.

NCDOT intended to complete the project in late 2022, but delays pushed completion by another year. Work has taken so long because of the many nearby bridges, ramps, roads and other improvements involved in the project, officials said.

[Story & photo courtesy of City of Statesville]