Construction on the East-West Connector (that almost wasn’t) is set to begin today

Three months ago, the town’s long-anticipated East-West Connector project was dead in the water. 

Not anymore, thanks to two substantial state grants recently awarded to the town. 

During its regular monthly meeting last week, Mooresville’s town board voted unanimously to award $29,753,500.53 to K. West Group LLC to begin construction on Phase 1 of the East-West Connector, which will provide direct access between the Lowe’s Corporate campus (I-77/Exit 31 and Langtree Road) to N.C. 115, at the intersection of Shearers and Rocky River roads. The second phase, when funding is secured, will extend the road to I-85. 

The town is wasting no time getting started. With the design already in hand, construction is set to begin today, Jan. 22. 

“For once, we’re getting the road ahead of the project,” said Mayor Chris Carney in a one-on-one meeting with the Scoop late last week. “When you have a Fortune 30 corporation like Lowe’s and then defense manufacturing across the street, we have an opportunity for this corridor to become something really special.”

In fact, said Carney, by the time the East-West Connector corridor is complete — expected within three years — “it should bring thousands of jobs and multiple billions of dollars of investments” to the 1.7-mile, full-pedestrian-friendly corridor situated in the southern end of town.

Here’s a breakdown of how the East-West Connector has been funded: 

  • $13.6 million from a 2019 BUILD grant
  • $2.4 million in private stakeholder funds (not including right-of-way donations)
  • $4.7 million from State and Capital Infrastructure Fund (SCIF) grant
  • $5 million from a State Economic Grant
  • $6.7 million from a Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRTPO) grant 
  • $4 million from Town of Mooresville General Fund expenditures (costs already spent on the project to date) 

With all the grants and funds combined, the town has $36,534,320 to spend on the project. The total amount needed is $38,627,017, a deficit of $2,092,697, which has already been earmarked for the project in the Town of Mooresville’s capital reserves. 

In fact, said Carney, the town had set aside $6.7 million in capital reserves, so the project — due in part to bids coming in lower this year than last year — will cost taxpayers $4 million less than the town was prepared to spend. 

The East-West Connector will benefit Mooresville in several ways, Carney said. 

  1. It establishes a more workable intersection in front of Lowe’s Corporate at I-77/Exit 31.
  2. It is the first leg of a connector between I-77 and I-85, connecting the Mooresville community through Cabarrus County to I-85.
  3. It opens the Langtree area for additional corporate campuses to join Lowe’s Home Improvement Inc. and Corvid Technologies.

When Carney signed the resolution at Tuesday’s town board meeting to move Phase 1 of the East-West Connector forward, it came with great fanfare, including confetti cannons in the Town Hall board room. 

Jon Young, Mooresville’s director of public services, was giddy with excitement after working on the project for years. “I am extremely excited about moving this project forward,” he said. “This is the single largest infrastructure project the Town of Mooresville has ever undertaken.”

But the road to get here wasn’t without speed bumps. The East-West Connector, in the works since 2010, came to a screeching halt last spring with no productive end in sight when bids for the project were returned to the town millions of dollars higher than originally anticipated. 

(Former) Mayor chooses more traffic over jobs 

Getting our government right 

But less than a year later, and after citizens in November overturned half the town board, including electing a new mayor, two grants have made the East-West Connector possible. 

While those grants are still taxpayer dollars, they’re spread out from tax dollars across the state and not just Mooresville. “This is an opportunity for us to get some of the money back that we put into the state coffers,” Carney said. “This is a great win for us.”

Young and board members took time in last week’s meeting to commend everyone who was involved in making the East-West Connector a reality, including town staff, government officials — specifically, Sen. Vicki Sawyer, Rep. Grey Mills and U.S. Sen. Ted Budd — and developers and property owners along the corridor. 

“The current town board and town staff didn’t give up on this project and worked tirelessly over these past couple of months because of the massive impact this project will have on the future of Mooresville and the number of jobs it will attract to our community,” Carney said. “All that hard work is now coming to fruition.”

Commissioner Lisa Qualls — who Carney said was instrumental in securing the recently announced $6.7 million CRPTO grant for the project — recognized the commitment of developers along the corridor. “They donated over 15 acres of right-of-way,” she said. “When you look at the dollar figure of what the property down there sells for, that just made this project happen. That was the difference between us being able to move forward on this project or not.” 

Young said the value of right-of-way donations totaled almost $8 million. 

“Had we had to buy those acres,” said Qualls, “the numbers just would not work.”


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About Author

Hi! I’m Jaime

I was a newspaper reporter in Mooresville, NC for a decade and covered local government issues from 2003 to 2006.