RALEIGH — City officials and transportation planners want to see big changes along a dreary downtown stretch of Capital Boulevard in 2016, when the state Department of Transportation replaces two obsolete interchanges at Peace Street and Wade Avenue.
Raleigh residents are invited to comment on possible designs for the Capital Boulevard bridges at a public information meeting Monday evening.
DOT is ready to rebuild the cramped bridges, both more than 58 years old, where Capital carries 55,000 cars and trucks each day over Peace and under Wade. The half-cloverleaf interchange at Peace and the trumpet-shaped ramps at Wade could be replaced with bigger but similar structures for an estimated $40.4 million, DOT says.
But the city has more ambitious ideas.
This half-mile stretch of Capital concrete forms a drab northern gateway to downtown Raleigh. The City Council favors new designs for the two bridges that planners say would enhance a long-term goal to improve aesthetics, economic development and all kinds of traffic including pedestrians, bicycles, intercity trains and regional transit along this corridor.
In a square loop option for Peace Street, drivers would loop along new paths using Johnson and Harrington streets on the west side of Capital. New streets would be constructed to form a similar loop east of Capital and south of Peace.
Two so-called diamond options for Wade Avenue would create a long, straight exit ramp for northbound Capital drivers, having them stop at a traffic signal before turning left onto the Wade bridge. Other decisions to be made here include whether to extend West Street north of Wade, and whether to close the nearby Fairview Road connection to Capital Boulevard.
The new interchange options to be aired Monday could push the cost as high as $74.6 million, and could force the relocation of as many as 29 businesses. The city probably will be asked to cover part of the increased expense. Which version gets built will depend partly on how much the city agrees to spend.
Supporters say it will be a good use of Raleighs money. A lot of people feel strongly that we wont have another shot at getting this right, said Mary-Ann Baldwin, a City Council member who lives in the Cotton Mill condos off Capital, between Peace and Wade. This is a 50-year project. If it costs a little more now, I think we are going to need to make that investment.
DOTs urge to replace old bridges and Raleighs wish to overhaul the boulevard are entwined with two long-range proposals to lay new tracks alongside Capital for a regional light-rail line and an Amtrak route to Richmond.
Were working with the city on this, and they have plans for what they want to do on Capital Boulevard, said Vince Rhea, a DOT planning engineer. Were trying to make sure we dont do something that gets in their way.
Rhea declined to release design details in advance of Mondays meeting. Eric Lamb, Raleighs transportation planning manager, said the new options would make Peace and Wade more amenable for walkers and cyclists, and would support transit-friendly economic development.
Construction could take more than two years, depending on which option is chosen, engineers said. Whatever the choice, it will be a project with a long impact on commuter and business traffic.
Capital Boulevard will be permanently realigned at Peace Street with the curving lanes moved about 10 feet farther west to give builders enough elbow room to construct a new interchange without having to shut down all traffic on Capital.
Im just glad its finally starting to happen, Baldwin said. Itll be painful for a few years during construction, but the end result is going to be a tremendous benefit to the city.