Like someone my age would, I took to Instagram to ask the people of Statesville (at least those who follow me) their thoughts on the construction of Interstates 77 and 40 and if they support it. Interestingly, 36% of subscribers (22 votes) said they supported the project, while 16% (10 votes) said they did not support it. I also left out a third option, titled “I don’t know much about it,” and 48% (29 votes) chose that option. For those who said they didn’t support it, I asked why they felt that way. The main responses were either that they didn’t feel safe traveling around the construction sites or that it was all confusing and they were ready for it to end.
What many of you may already know
As many of you know and probably encounter it every day, Interstates 77 and 40 are undergoing significant changes here in Statesville. East Broad Street is also seeing big changes to support this expansion of nearby freeways and to make larger traffic scenes safer and more manageable.
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The intersection of East Broad Street and Signal Hill Drive is notorious for stopping traffic and confusing many people unfamiliar with the area. it will soon become a roundabout, which the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) says helps “reduce congestion and safeguards more typical of traditional intersections with stop signs and traffic lights “.
Construction of I-77 begins at exit 49B near downtown Statesville and ends around exit 51A-B where the I-40 interchange is located, while construction of East Broad Street begins to Vine Street and ends around Signal Hill Drive. While some small construction projects have taken place here and there since 2012, projects have intensified recently and are expected to be completed this winter. Soon, interstate and local intersections will seem unrecognizable to many of us.
The biggest part of this construction is the addition of a partial turbine interchange at the intersection of I-77 and I-40 to make the transition to and from both freeways easier and smoother. This will include new collector-distributor lanes, which serve as additional roads that separate vehicles entering and exiting the main highway. The bridges currently under construction on I-77 at exit 51A-B to Winston-Salem/Asheville will serve this purpose. There will also be a general widening of I-77 in this area from two lanes to five lanes through the Exit 50 area, then to three lanes in both directions via the interchange.
The decision to expand the freeway is driven by the growing number of people coming to Statesville, and more people mean more cars passing through the area daily.
NCDOT estimates that by 2035, the interchange will see 110,000 cars per day, a 57% increase from the 70,000 it currently sees.
What you might not know (and what the research says)
What may have struck you even more recently, however, is the disappearance of trees along Signal Hill Drive and East Broad Street in front of Signal Hill Mall, and the sight of gravel, broken concrete and big machines above exposed red mud. . Trees, grass and shrubs are essential for maintaining soil structure and reducing the risk of erosion. Without vegetation, the soil has nothing to hold it together, and as a result, it gets washed away by rain and into local streams and streams, polluting the water and smothering the living organisms therein. Additionally, soil contains an incredible amount of carbon, and when all vegetation is removed, soil can become a carbon source rather than a carbon sink. It would start releasing carbon instead of absorbing and retaining it.
Although the NCDOT recognizes this and attempts to maintain or install vegetation (mostly grass), there are still many bare areas at the current construction site. And, where there is vegetation, the NCDOT maintains and ensures its growth through the careful use of fertilizers, which harms water quality and the aquatic ecosystem, human and animal health. , and contributes significantly to the climate crisis due to its impact on the atmosphere. is nitrous oxide (N2O). Nitrous oxide is the most powerful greenhouse gas from agricultural production and its global warming potential (the amount of heat a certain gas can hold) is 298 times more potent than the most potent greenhouse gas. most commonly mentioned, carbon dioxide (CO2).
Trees and plants also help absorb and infiltrate water, making the soil more porous and absorbent. When these trees are cut down and no vegetation cover is present, the soil is much more likely to become compacted and not allow water to pass through. This increases the risk of flooding but also soil erosion, forcing more water to local creeks and streams (Fourth Creek in this case) and potentially increasing stream flow.
The NCDOT has an entire staff of environmental engineers, watercourse and wetland specialists, and more to ensure that environmental resources are protected and properly managed during construction projects. The NCDOT also uses a fusion process to monitor and assess environmental impacts. It’s called a merger process because it merges the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and the Clean Water Act of 1977.
Among the staff are hydraulic engineers, who ensure nearby creeks and creeks can handle runoff they may receive from vertical land modifications, such as land heaving to build bridges. Federal and local agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), also stop in from time to time to check on the project and ensure protocol is being followed.
Human health effects of highway construction
The construction and expansion of highways also have significant effects on human health. According to a 2017 article published in the journal “Current World Environment”, people living near or working on highway construction projects face adverse health effects, including respiratory complications such as obstructive pulmonary disease. chronic (COPD) and cardiovascular diseases.
Roads are constantly releasing aggregates and particles, from tires hitting the pavement to vehicle exhaust. Along with the construction project comes the destruction of previous roads, the addition of new asphalt and concrete, and some chemicals placed on the roads causing these aggregates and particles to enter the air at a faster pace. And not only do road dust and heavy metals enter the air faster, but the construction area is deprived of its natural filters. So the next time you drive with the windows down, keep that in mind!
North Carolina is known for its beautiful landscape and the abundance of trees and their accompanying foliage. It is a shame to see them slowly disappearing and being replaced by roads and new developments. A new housing estate is currently under construction at the intersection of East Broad Street and Greenbriar Road, which was formerly farmland. This development plan attributes residential land opportunities to the expansion of I-77, stating that “travel time to Statesville will be significantly reduced, opening up residential development opportunities.”
Statesville is about to change forever.
A new family in my neighborhood told me that one of the main reasons they moved here was so they could be more immersed in the nature around them now, unlike Cornelius where they previously resided. If we’re not careful, we risk ruining the beauty and productivity of where we call home and destroying what brought us here.
Cat Chapman is a student at Appalachian State University and is originally from Statesville.