One of Cary’s busiest intersections will get a facelift.
The Town Council on Thursday unanimously agreed to spend $7 million to upgrade the interchange at Walnut Street and U.S. 1 near the Crossroads Plaza shopping center.
The project is funded by voter-approved bonds from 2012.
Cary hopes to improve safety and traffic flow while giving the interchange the green, manicured touch that its main roads are known for.
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Workers will install a median on Walnut Street from Buck Jones Road to the U.S. 1 ramps on the east side of the bridge. Parts of the median will have vegetation while the bridge will get a “decorative concrete island,” according to town documents.
The bridge wasn’t designed to accommodate a median with landscaping, Lori Cove, Cary’s director of facilities design and transportation services, told the council.
The median won’t come at the expense of traffic lanes. The town plans to widen the north side of the bridge to add a lane and a new sidewalk.
Widening an existing bridge is similar to building a new bridge, Cove said.
“You add steel to the existing bridge, lengthen the existing piers or build new ones and tie the new structure into the existing bridge,” she said.
New sidewalks are slated for the east side of Buck Jones Road and on both sides of the bridge on eastbound Walnut Street.
Cary plans to add dual left- and right-turn lanes for traffic off U.S. 1 onto Walnut Street.
The town will also add several crosswalks, a railing on Buck Jones Road and a black vinyl chain-link fence on the bridge over U.S. 1.
The wooden traffic pole in front of the Red Lobster restaurant will become a metal, zinc-coated pole.
Cary will begin construction this fall, and the project is expected to wrap up by early 2016.
Cove said Cary is still in the process of reviewing its traffic-control options with the N.C. Department of Transportation.
“We will do our best to minimize traffic disruptions, particularly during the heavy traffic times such as holiday shopping,” she said.
Councilman Jack Smith said he won’t be surprised if construction takes longer than expected.
He said improvements might be complex since the town will be adding onto several projects that were left incomplete in the 1980s.
“This is kind of a Looney Tunes area,” he said.
Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said he was glad the town is doing something to protect pedestrians who walk across the bridge.
“They’re risking their lives,” Weinbrecht said.
Councilwoman Gale Adcock praised Cary staff for adding small details to the project, such as the vinyl coating on the bridge fencing, that will make a big difference aesthetically.
“You’ve done everything you could to make this look as good as possible with function being the primary goal,” she said.