With so many of my adult years intertwined with Reston's growth, it seems a little unusual to suggest that Cornelius, North Carolina, might have sneaked one by the traffic experts in Fairfax County, Virginia.
I made my first trip down HIghway 28 in 1987 and like many I can hardly believe how things have changed in the traffic landscape between the beltway and Dulles. Getting to the Reston Apple office for many years required traversing the Wiehle Avenue bridge over the Dulles Toll Road. I can remember when the bridge got massively bigger and now there is even a Metro stop there.
Fortunately I have not had to travel the Wiehle Avenue bridge for work during the Silver Line construction. Mostly I have seen it on occasional trips to Northern Virginia. So I will admit to not knowing how well the bridge is handling what I am sure is ever increasing traffic. We all know that in spite of Metro lines and ever increasing lanes, traffic never goes down.
I have actually been visiting the Cornelius-Huntersville area of North Carolina more often than Reston. It is another high growth area which might surprise many Northern Virginians who think the world ends about twenty miles out Interstate 66. I used to wonder if anyone from Northern Virginia had even heard of Southwest Virginia much less visited the area where we had a home for many years. In what might be an even more surprising turn of events, there are some spots in North Carolina that are capable of giving Northern Virginia a run for its money when it comes to traffic and growth. One of the huge draws for the area is Lake Norman which has 520 miles of shoreline.
It turns out that Charlotte was the second fastest growing large city in the nation during 2013. Of course Fairfax County is no slouch and over the last few years, and it has gotten more people from Mecklenburg County, the home of Charlotte, that Mecklenburg County has gotten from Fairfax. Of course I figure that is because Northern Virginians think they will fall off the edge of the earth that far south.
Like Fairfax County and all of Northern Virginia, much of the explosive growth in the Charlotte region is happening farther from the city center. Iredell County just up I77 from Charlotte is seeing explosive growth and as a result will get some express lanes. Express lanes are nothing new to Reston residents, but the bridge over I77 at Exit 28 in Cornelius just on the edge of Mecklenburg County is unlike anything that I have seen in Reston. As you can see from the picture I took, it is not a normal traffic flow. I will be curious to hear if there is anything like it in Northern Virginia.
Local residents were told that this bridge was a state of the art design. I got to see it during the construction phase which definitely created some huge traffic tie ups. The picture is looking east from the west side of the Catawba Avenue Bridge over I77. We are on the right side of the road poised to head over to left side of the road as we begin to cross the bridge. When we get near the end of the bridge, if you want go north on I77, you do not have to turn left across traffic because you are now on the left side of the bridge. In spite of that when you get a little farther along, you have migrated back to the right and can easily turn right on Highway 21 South or head straight into Cornelius towards one of my favorite barbeque places. All of this lane changing takes more than a few stoplights which can prove to be a challenge.
While it might be too early to declare this either a phenomenal success or an unbelievable waste of money, traffic is moving on the bridge which is more than I can say about the construction period. The one way to tell if it is successful is to see if a bridge or two get converted in Northern Virginia.
If you are interested in the Cornelius-Huntersville area, you might want to check out Birkdale Village. The area reminds me of Reston Town Center except it has a mall filled with a Christmas tree instead of a skating rink. There is also a forest of Christmas trees for sale among all the trendy shops, restaurants and apartments and condos over them.
It is definitely a bustling area. I visited my first Publix grocery store not far from Birkdale Town Center. It is not a Wegman's but it is a very nice store and there is a Whole Foods Store on the way to it. Our dream is a little different than the urban world of either Charlotte or Reston. However, not many folks get to live on the water by the beach so it is a good dream.