Can you hear that? It sounds like a chorus of angels ... A deep bellowing voice shouting "Hallelujah!" to the rooftops. No, it's not rain ending the California drought. It's not term limits for members of Congress. It's not a guaranteed Panthers Super Bowl championship. It's the completion of the I-485 loop around Charlotte. After all, it's only taken the N.C. Department of Transportation more than 25 years.
While planning for the beltway started in the 1970s, a groundbreaking was held in July 1988 and the first section of the $139 million, 67.6-mile loop didn't open until 1990. The final section, between N.C. 115 and I-85 is scheduled to open on June 4. No longer will drivers in the Northlake Mall area (such as myself) have to hit countless traffic lights down a long stretch of W.T. Harris Boulevard in order to reach the University area. Instead, you'll be able to jump on to I-485 at a red-light-free cruising speed of 70 mph in order to reach your northeasterly destination.
I imagine conversations with each of the roads would go something like this:
Creative Loafing: Well, it's been quite a while, but you're finally finished. How does it feel?
I-485: Humans get a gestation period of nine months. Mine has been going on for about 27 years. How do you think it feels? Imagine if your mother had a 27-year-old living inside of her ... I mean, enough is enough. It's about time already, don't you think? I can't wait to have people roll all over me at high speeds. It's gonna feel great.
And your speed limit is going up, so they'll be rolling even faster.
I-485: Look, you've experienced it yourself. You leave a concert at PNC Music Pavilion and have the long struggle home on Harris Boulevard. I feel for that Harris guy... it's a tough life and he's got hundreds of pissed off drivers on top of him every day yelling and throwing hand gestures because there are a ton of traffic lights and no one ever drives the speed limit. I'm happy to take some of that pressure off of him and facilitate travel in the city. It's gonna be great. Of course, see me in a few years when my skin starts getting cracks and potholes in it.
Interstate-485 is going to have a big impact on you as well.
W.T. Harris Boulevard: (singing) I am so lonely, I'm Mr. Lonely.
Are you OK?
Harris Boulevard: It's a double-edged sword. On the one lane (I don't have hands, remember?), I'm going to have a lot less stress in my life. On the other lane, I'm going to be lonely. People hate me. I slow them down. I add stress to their lives. I get no respect.
Perhaps with the alleviated traffic, people won't hate you as much.
Harris Boulevard: That's a pipe dream. My only hope is that I-485 gets tolls on it one day and people will remember me fondly. I treated them well — I'm only East and West, that I-485 is Inner, Outer, North, South, East and West. He's confused. He gets people lost. Even GPS systems don't know what to call him. I never charged anyone to step all over me all day long. Hey, humans — if the interstate comes calling for your quarters one day with a toll lane like they are trying to do with I-77, remember the little people.