American Tobacco Trail/I-40/alternate
These workarounds take you to the Massey Chapel Road entrance to the ATT, which was closed on May 30, 2012 so that construction could begin on the final unfinished stretch of the ATT (including the I-40 bridge). The Massey Chapel Road southbound entrance was scheduled to reopen by March 2013, so these instructions should still work -- but then in July, the I-40 section (including the bridge) will open, making them obsolete.
The "obvious" way across I-40 is to get onto Fayetteville Road and cross with the traffic. This is tricky, as there are no apparent sidewalks and it is a busy street. One rider reports that you can get across by turning right on 54, crossing at the next street (Rollingwood), then "cutting through the Harris Teeter shopping center and then turning right onto Fayetteville Rd. to cross I-40. That crossing looks like a monster but it is actually quite safe if you take it in pieces. The intersection is so complex that there are plenty of islands in which a cyclist can wait for a favorable traffic pattern. From there I take Fayetteville south past the mall which is busy but four lanes wide so cars can pass me if they need to, or sometimes I go through the mall parking lot. Past the mall it's a short scoot to Massey Chapel on the right", which leads to the next segment of the ATT.
A somewhat less alarming crossing is at the next bridge to the west (Highway 751), which has a sidewalk. The way to get there is relatively pleasant (sidewalks available most of the way) and does not involve riding with any busy traffic:
- Turn right on NC 54 (stay on the sidewalk, if you value your life)
- At the next street (Rollingwood on your right, Highgate Drive on the left, across the street), cross 54 (there's no crosswalk or pedestrian signal, so you have to wait for the traffic light and watch for vehicles turning from the cross-street; this seems to be the most dangerous point of the trip.)
- Point of interest: The planned location for the future bridge over I-40 is apparently up a short, steep hill just behind the shopping center.
- Continue down Highgate for a couple of bends. Parts of it have no sidewalk, but it's pretty wide and uncongested most of the time.
- Turn left on Audubon Lake Drive (if you get back to 54, you've gone too far)
- At some point -- the traffic circle is probably a good place -- get onto the left-hand sidewalk. (Actually, we get on the right-hand one, even though that means crossing the road again later... but it makes it easier to ride with the traffic when going downhill towards 751.)
- Continue on Southpoint Auto Park Boulevard through a lot of soon-to-be-developed wasteland (all with very nice sidewalks)...
- Point of interest: Just past the first of the car dealerships, and past a small lake, there is an old family graveyard under a small grove of magnolias at the top of a hill, with graves dating back to the mid-1800s. (There is also a paved footpath beginning right next to the graveyard; it goes down to the lake and around it, and emerges just to the west of the car dealership. It appears both fairly new and not well-maintained, as there was a large tree-branch blocking the graveyard-side trail entrance for several months in the summer of 2007, and a lot of leaves on that portion of the trail.)
- Continue past both of the mondo new car dealerships and out to Hope Valley Road (NC 751). The car traffic picks up a bit as you get into car dealer territory, and sometimes there are people mowing with rider mowers and blocking the sidewalk.
- Turn left onto 751 / Hope Valley Rd. Again, I advise using the sidewalk even though it is not marked for bicycle use; it does not seem to be used by pedestrians, and if the police give you a hard time for riding on the sidewalk, tell them I said it's ok. ^_^
- This takes you across I-40, including the westbound exit ramp and the eastbound on-ramp. I have to assume you know how to handle yourself in weird car-bike situations, but do be careful. The good thing is that the sidewalk continues across the bridge and all the way to Renaissance Parkway, which is the entrance to the Southpoint Mall area and is also lined with sidewalks and what looks like an actual bike trail on the far (south) side.
- Turn (left) into Renaissance Parkway, then right on Leonardo, left on Morrell Lane. Loop around until you start back uphill, then turn left onto Crichton Lane, which ends at a cul-de-sac. On the east side of the cul-de-sac is a wooden stairway which leads down to a well-traveled sewer right-of-way which connects to a tiny piece of the former railroad right-of-way, from which you can access Massey Chapel Road and the official recommencement of the ATT.
- Although there are stubs of the ATT where it crosses Renaissance Parkway, neither of these is particularly useful until the connectors are finished; on the north side (will eventually connect to the pedestrian bridge) you end up in the middle of a small stretch of woods just south of I-40, and on the south side you end up in a swamp.
- Some maps show the future ATT following the sewer right of way, while some show it keeping to the other side of the swamp. We hope that if it does end up crossing the swamp, they put up a boarded bridge rather than paving it. It's not clear whether this decision has been made or if that portion of the trail has yet to be designed.