Road Worrier: Glenwood Avenue overhaul could involve 'Superstreet'

bsiceloff@newsobserver.comDecember 3, 2012 

ROADWORRIER1.120312.TI

Morning traffic on Glenwood Ave. near I-540 exhits, photographed Monday, December 3, 2012. N.C. DOT plans to spend more than $150 million for an upgrade to 6 congested miles of Glenwood Avenue Ð from Duraleigh Road to TW Alexander Drive Ð that will add lanes and convert some intersections into interchanges.

TAKAAKI IWABU — tiwabu@newsobserver.com

  • Glenwood Avenue widening in West Raleigh Share your ideas and learn about options for improving Glenwood at a public workshop 4-7 p.m. Thursday at the Elks Lodge, 5538 Lead Mine Road. The meeting will focus on the state Department of Transportation’s plan to widen and upgrade about four miles of Glenwood from the 540 Outer Loop to the Duraleigh / Millbrook intersection. Construction is to begin in 2020. Meanwhile, work starts in 2017 for a separate Glenwood project on the other side of 540. The regularly jammed intersection of Glenwood and Brier Creek Parkway will be converted to an expressway-style interchange. Source: NCDOT

— The rush-hour backups are getting worse on Glenwood Avenue, and state traffic engineers want to hear our ideas for making things better.

At a public information session Thursday, they’ll air options for a project to upgrade about four miles of the four-lane road, from the 540 Outer Loop to the intersection with Duraleigh and Millbrook roads.

Add more lanes, you say? That’ll be part of the solution, no doubt.

Also on the table is one of those dumb names the Road Worrier just hates to say out loud: Superstreet.

Behind this dumb name is a road-tested idea: We can speed the flow on Glenwood if we give drivers more green-light time.

Maybe we can do that by getting rid of all those times when four lanes of cars have to stop at a red light, just so a few drivers can turn left onto Glenwood from a side street – or so they can travel across Glenwood from one side to the other.

If Glenwood is turned into a Superstreet (sorry!) corridor, only right turns will be allowed for drivers coming out of a side street. Then they’ll make a U-turn and come back the other way – either to continue straight on Glenwood or to turn right at the intersection.

Got that? It takes getting used to, but it has a pretty good track record.

Chapel Hill has a (forgive me) Superstreet that some drivers hate, but it has unclogged U.S. 15-501 on the Durham side of town. And in March, when the first Target store in Holly Springs opens for business on N.C. 55, drivers there will be treated to a string of three intersections in the (insert S-word here) design.

“It’s a hard concept to understand,” acknowledges Jim Dunlop, a congestion management engineer for the state Department of Transportation. “To go straight across, I’ve got to turn right, make a U-turn, turn right again.”

And it could make a big difference. This Super-thingy approach could give drivers on Glenwood as much as 70 percent of the green-light time – where they have only 40 percent now, Dunlop said.

And that could be the difference between making Glenwood six lanes wide, as a Superstreet (last time, I promise) corridor – and making it eight lanes wide, with standard intersections.

The lights would still turn red to let Glenwood drivers turn left onto the side streets, using an intersection design with a nice name the Road Worrier likes to say out loud: the leftover.

Upgrade planned for U.S. 70

Glenwood also is U.S. 70, and it was the main road between Raleigh and Durham before Interstate 40 opened up in the 1980s.

The section planned for an upgrade now handles as many as 47,000 cars and trucks each day. By 2035, planners say that number could reach 76,000.

“It’s congested and getting more congested out there,” said DOT engineer Steve Brown, who is overseeing the project design work. Sometimes there are so many cars stopped at one of its seven traffic signals that they back up into the next intersection.

All that traffic can be a real headache for patrons of Umstead State Park, North Carolina’s busiest urban park.

“When you get into the afternoon and evening rush hour, it’s really hard to make a left turn into the park off Glenwood,” said Scott Letchworth, the Umstead park superintendent. “We’ve got a lot of folks who like to run or go on a bike ride here after work.”

What happens when they leave the state park in traffic so heavy that they cannot turn left onto Glenwood?

Here’s what Umstead visitors do, Letchworth says, when left to their own devices:

Turn right onto Glenwood. Head down to the Ebenezer Church Road intersection. Make a U-turn. And come back the other way.

Make contact: 919-829-4527 or bruce.siceloff@newsobserver.com. On the Web at twitter.com/Road_Worrier/ and blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown/. Please include address and daytime phone.

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