North Raleigh's neglected Sandy Forks Road to get 'green' makeover

ccampbell@newsobserver.comJuly 15, 2014 

— One of the bumpiest roads in North Raleigh is set for a pedestrian and bike-friendly makeover starting next year.

The Raleigh City Council approved final designs Tuesday for a long-awaited overhaul of Sandy Forks Road, a narrow, crumbling stretch of asphalt that is a popular shortcut between Falls of Neuse and Six Forks roads.

The $9.9 million rebuild was funded in last year’s $75 million transportation bond. The two-lane street’s eroded shoulder will be replaced by sidewalks and bike lanes on both sides. And the faded yellow center line will give way to a grassy median.

Sandy Forks will also become the first “Greenroad” in Raleigh, a certification given to road projects with environmentally friendly features. When complete, it will have bioretention facilities to capture runoff and reduce erosion and stream contamination. The pavement will include recycled asphalt, and it will be an inch thicker to make it last longer.

“That will save us big money in the long run,” public works Director Carl Dawson said.

Raleigh will pay $4,600 for the Greenroad certification – an aspect of the project that’s drawing fire from the conservative Wake County Taxpayers Association. The certification program is run by a nonprofit foundation based at the University of Washington.

“They are lockstep with the United Nations,” said George Sharpley, the city affairs chairman for the group. “I don’t think we should be paying when part of that money is going to a very disreputable company. We need to keep the money here.”

The Taxpayers Association and some other conservative groups have opposed sustainability efforts by the city of Raleigh and other governments, alleging the efforts are as part of a decades-old United Nations plan.

Others took aim at the planned median on Sandy Forks. Margaret Parrish, who owns property along the road, hired an attorney because the median would prohibit left turns at her driveway.

“She will have to make U-turns to enter her property,” attorney Andy Petesch told the council earlier this month, adding that the hassle “would likely have a significant financial impact on the Parrishes’ being able to sell that property.”

But some City Council members said the safety benefits would outweigh any inconvenience.

“If we want to be pedestrian-friendly, a median becomes a safe haven if we put crosswalks in there,” Councilman Thomas Crowder said.

Councilman Wayne Maiorano said he sympathizes with the driveway concern, and he’d asked city staff early this month to seek “as thoughtful and creative a solution as we can.” But design approved Tuesday included no changes to the median, and former Councilman Randy Stagner – who’d lobbied heavily for the Sandy Forks project – took to Twitter to call for “no more delays.”

For drivers there, the fix is long overdue. The road has seen little change as the once-rural area gave way to apartments and commercial development. Even Sharpley had praise for the improvements.

“It looks like the street is like a Mercedes,” he said. “It’s going to have a lot of bells and whistles, and it’s probably going to be upgraded perfectly.”

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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