Town leaders hope to build a new road in western Cary and improve traffic flow between two of the area’s busiest roads.
The Cary Town Council on Thursday unanimously approved a 0.8-mile route for Carpenter Fire Station Road between N.C. 55 and Louis Stephens Road.
Carpenter Fire Station currently connects to Louis Stephens through Morrisville Carpenter Road, which is two lanes and has a “much higher” crash rate than other secondary roads in Wake County, according to data compiled by the state.
The area between N.C. 55 and Louis Stephens would be safer and easier to navigate if Cary builds a four-lane road, said Lori Cove, the town’s director for facilities design and transportation services.
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“It’s a pretty high-volume corridor,” she said, adding: “It’s been a critical connection on our thoroughfare plan for many years.”
The project will cost about $18 million and will be paid for with funds generated by the bond referendum approved by Cary voters in 2012.
There’s no timetable for completing the road, which falls under the jurisdiction of the N.C. Department of Transportation. The town still needs to complete the road design and have DOT approve it, as well as acquire land in the right-of-way, Cove said.
But selecting a route for the new road was a big first step. Council members were given two route options to choose from.
The route chosen by the council gives commuters on Carpenter Fire Station Road a straighter path between N.C. 55 and Louis Stephens but displaces two historic barns.
The other route option spared the barns but would have displaced an occupied house located near the center of a historic district.
Councilman Ed Yerha, a Cary history buff, said he wished the town could preserve the barns.
“Despite the fact that I don’t like either alternative, I accept your recommendation,” he told town staff.
As part of the plan, Cary hopes to build a tunnel for Carpenter Fire Station Road to run under a CSX railroad that runs parallel to N.C. 55.
The road currently crosses the tracks, and there’s no gate at the crossing to separate a train from vehicular traffic.
“It is not a very highly utilized rail coriridor,” Cove said. She estimated that a train might travel across Carpenter Fire Station Road twice a day.
“Of course that could always change,” she noted.
The route is one of a few projects Cary is pursuing to improve traffic in northeast Cary.
In that part of town, there are no continuous routes that run east-to-west between N.C. 54, N.C. 55 and N.C. 540. Morrisville Parkway comes the closest to connecting to all three.
The town has a plan for connecting Morrisville Parkway to N.C. 540, but the Turnpike Authority might not start building ramps to it until 2018. Cary is looking for ways to expedite construction.
The town also has plans to extend McCrimmon Parkway westward to N.C. 55 but doesn’t have the funding.