HOLLY SPRINGS — Construction crews have blocked off intersections along Holly Springs’ biggest road as a huge shopping center nears completion.
The closings marked the beginning of Holly Springs’ first superstreet, which will bar drivers on Holly Springs Road and Green Oaks Parkway from turning left onto or directly crossing the N.C. 55 Bypass.
Instead, drivers approaching the highway will turn right onto the bypass and make a U-turn. Then they’ll turn right again if they want to continue on their original road on the other side of the highway.
Kite Realty is changing the intersections to accommodate traffic from its under-construction Holly Springs Towne Center, but the idea has caused some consternation, including a protest group.
A preliminary version of the superstreet has been in place since late December, when Kite Realty’s contractors entered the final phase of construction. Since then, drivers have had to take the U-turn detour to cross the bypass, as they will in the final version.
The only work remaining is the activation of the left-turn lanes and the removal of the temporary medians that block the intersections. Then bypass drivers can once again turn left onto Holly Springs Road and Green Oaks Parkway.
In the interim weeks, though, they’ll have to take the circuitous U-turn route.
Superstreets, sometimes known as “Michigan lefts,” have become more popular, but they remain rare in North Carolina, which has built only about 50 of them in 12 years.
A state expert, Jim Dunlop, said the design will add much-needed capacity for soon-to-be congested intersections.
“The problem with our traditional intersections is that everybody’s fighting for that little piece of real estate in the middle of the intersection” as they try to cross and make left turns, he said.
“We can move more people at the same time by spreading it out” across the U-turns.
The design can double the amount of time drivers on the main thoroughfare have the green light, Dunlop said.
But local cyclists were worried the design would be treacherous for pedestrians and bicyclists, and they said the complex route could divide the town and hurt local businesses.
In response, the town and the state transportation department talked to their critics and changed the designs, incorporating a bike-friendly passage for cyclists to cross at Green Oaks Parkway.
Those changes have blunted some of the criticism of the new design, and at least a few cyclists are optimistic about the changes.
“In theory,” the intersection should be passable for cyclists and walkers, wrote Jerry Canterbury, once a critic of the project. “... But this will be the first time this type of accommodation has been made. It’s an experiment. Time and use will determine if the changes keep the roadways accessible for bikes and pedestrians in the same manner as cars.”
Two more superstreet intersections also will be added at entrances to Holly Springs Towne Center. In all, the developer-funded traffic project will include some 15 new traffic signals, thousands of feet of new lanes and a new experience for drivers.
In exchange for Kite’s funding the road improvements, Holly Springs will waive transportation and sewer fees. And with the road project nearly completed, the Holly Springs Towne Center is clear for its scheduled March opening.
Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary