Not sure what’s worse here, the N.C. Department of Transportation’s design for the Independence Blvd/Albemarle Road/Sharon Amity area or the Charlotte Observer’s article out yesterday “Wrecks point out access issues at Independence Walmart store.”
The basic issue is that there’s a new big Wal-Mart near the Albemarle Road exit on outbound Independence. Some people would like to get on Albemarle Road after shopping at Wal-Mart. The Albemarle Road exit is on the left though, so you have to go through four lanes of traffic going (sometimes) 50 miles per hour in a couple hundred feet to make the Albemarle Road turnoff. Sometimes those efforts to get to the Albemarle Road ramp don’t turnout so well.
“That is dangerous,” said Jen Thompson, of the N.C. Department of Transportation. “That area was designed as a right-in, right-out access.”
True enough. But the state also didn’t buy out the shopping centers along the highway and placed a major exit on the left side of the highway. Things might have been OK except had the stores along Independence continued to die out, leaving a big depressed and depressing wasteland but then Wal-Mart had to come in to rejuvenate at least a small part of the area… Things might also be OK if the Walmart were further away from the Albemarle Road exit but state and city transportation officials apparently didn’t recognize the issue or thought it was not as serious as it has turned out to be.
Adding to the problem is that you can’t make a left turnout anymore at Sharon Amity, the next (first) light, so if you want to get to Albemarle Road you have to go all the way to Idlewild and work your way back around via WT Harris. Not sure how the impending Independence rebuild from Sharon Amity to Idlewild will change all that.
Which brings us to the UPoR’s coverage:
Access to Albemarle Road is supposed to be from Pierson Drive, reached from the store’s parking lot. Pierson Drive goes under Independence Boulevard and crosses Albemarle Road a short distance from the Independence-Albemarle interchange.
“It might take a little longer, but it’s safer,” Thompson said.
No, not really. You can take Pierson to get to Independence inbound, but that involves a rather dangerous turn onto Independence. You can even take Pierson to inbound Albemarle Road before it gets to Independence. There’s no quick and easy way to get from Pierson to outbound Albemarle Road though — you can’t make that left anymore. From Pierson, you can continue on and cut through the neighborhood to get to Sharon Amity (or Central Avenue, or Eastway Drive) but I’m pretty sure that isn’t what the city has in mind. And if you don’t have a GPS or don’t know the area, you could get really lost really fast if you try it.
Bonus observation: Observer staff would have caught the error had they made use of the Google Map link that they thoughtfully included with the online version of the story.