Harrison Avenue will get a facelift but not a full makeover.
When the state Department of Transportation gives part of the road a fresh coat of asphalt this fall, it will not paint new lines to make way for bicyclists.
The Cary Town Council on Thursday voted 5-2 to reject a proposal by town staff to temporarily realign Harrison from Maynard Road to Chapel Hill Road.
Town staff recently suggested reducing the number of lanes from four to two (plus a turn center lane) on that section of road to make way for bike lanes on each side.
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More than 70 percent of about 400 Cary residents surveyed last year supported the idea of adding bike lanes to that 0.8-mile stretch of Harrison.
DOT’s plan to repave that section of the road this fall offered a chance for the town to design a new traffic pattern at a reduced cost. If Cary wants a new pattern after DOT lays new asphalt, the town will likely have to pay thousands of dollars to make the change.
Under staff’s proposal, Cary leaders could have made the realignment permanent or restore the road to four lanes after several months of gathering feedback from cyclists, motorists and residents.
An average of 13,000 vehicles traveled on that stretch of Harrison each day in 2013, down from 15,000 the prior year.
Despite the potential cost savings and temporary nature of the project, most Cary council members sided with residents who claimed that realigning the traffic pattern would make rush hour worse.
Resident Brent Miller said removing car lanes to encourage alternative modes of transportation is like reducing Cary’s water capacity to get people to use less of it.
“I just don’t get this idea of removing capacity from existing infrastructure ... to achieve a goal,” he said.
Ed Ketron, who lives in the Plantations of Northwood subdivision off Harrison, also worried the project could worsen traffic.
“I cannot believe that you can reduce the speed by 20 percent and reduce the lanes by 25 percent and still handle that amount of traffic,” he said.
“No way could I imagine a three-lane road instead of a four lane road. ... Sometimes I think we need a five-lane road,” said Ronald Frame, who also lives off Harrison.
Supporters of adding temporary bike lanes said it would make the street safer for drivers and cyclists.
Of all the roads Steve Barsby bikes in Raleigh, Durham and Cary, he said “that stretch (of Harrison) is about the most dangerous.”
Others, including Councilwoman Lori Bush, said the center turn lane that would have been added as part of the project would greatly improve driver safety. Often, drivers slam on their brakes, reacting to someone in front of them who is trying to turn left, she said.
“This would have been a great opportunity to try something without doing too much damage,” Bush said.
Councilman Ed Yerha also supported the temporary realignment, saying predictions of disastrous traffic problems are unfounded.
“I think the project has merit,” he said. “Our staff has a professional opinion and they say they’re comfortable with this, so I’m gonna go with it.”
Years ago, the town added bike lanes by reducing traffic lanes on Lake Pine Drive – a road with similar daily traffic – with little outcry, according to Laura Cove, director of facilities design and transportation services for the town.
Councilman Don Frantz doubted a realignment would go as smoothly this time.
“We’re trying to fit 20 pounds of stuff in a 10-pound bag,” he said. “I don’t think this is the place to try this sort of thing.”