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An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

New Bridge To Open In Independence Widening Project

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Tasnim Shamma

Starting midnight Tuesday, you'll be able to drive over a new bridge in east Charlotte.

It's on Conference Drive and it's part of a $51 million project to widen Independence Boulevard between Albemarle Road and Wallace Lane.

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Credit Tasnim Shamma
Eucario Moreno lives at the Ashley Place. He says because of construction of the bridge next to the apartment complex, he hasn't been able to sleep and his commute is longer.

For more than a year, EucarioMoreno says he's been losing sleep. He lives at the Ashley Place apartment complex next to the Conference Drive bridge.  

"With all the machines there, working on the roads and they're making really bad noises," Moreno says. "So sometimes we don't sleep. When we get up in the morning, we kinda tired because, you know, we didn't rest a lot. So yeah that's the problem that we have now."

And because of lane closures, he says there's a lot more traffic. Getting to his job in south Charlotte used to take 10 minutes – now it sometimes takes 35.

Widening Independence Boulevard

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Credit Tasnim Shamma
A view of the Conference Drive bridge from Idlewild Road. The bridge will open on Tuesday at midnight.

The US 74 widening project involves building three new bridges that will go over Independence Boulevard: one on Conference Drive, another on Sharon Amity Road and the last on Idlewild Road. The Conference Drive bridge is opening on Tuesday night.

The project also calls for sidewalks, bicycle and bus lanes. It will also add one general purpose lane in each direction, making the current six-lane roadway into an eight-lane expressway.

Impact on Business

Local businesses are hopeful that costumers will come back when there's more access. The parking lot in front of the Gash Mini Mart in the Independence Shopping Center is nearly empty. 

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Credit Tasnim Shamma
Cashier Tekle Beraki helps a customer on Sunday afternoon. He says that when lanes are closed, "business is dead" at the Gash Mini Mart.

Since construction began, cashier TekleBeraki says he's seen a 50 percent drop in business – especially when lanes are closed.

"From the other side of Independence -- there is no access, the only access is you have to make U-turn over-here on Idlewild -- it's not convenient," Beraki says. 

Beraki says his brother, who is the owner, is struggling to pay the monthly rent of $4,000.

He will decide whether to keep the business open based on the Conference Drive bridge opening on Tuesday. That will provide one more entry point.  

"He will see how it's going to affect the opening of the bridge," Beraki says, "And maybe if he can survive, he's going to wait. Other than that, as it is, he's not making nothing. He's paying it from his pocket right now."

Also starting Tuesday, Idlewild Road will be closed between Monroe Road and Electra Lane for the next two years to build another bridge. Construction is expected to be complete by the fall of 2016.

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