The Town Council devoted much of its May 10 meeting to advancing projects aimed at mitigating the town’s chief concern: traffic.
The council heard updates on two projects nearing construction phases – the widening of Morrisville-Carpenter Road and McCrimmon Parkway – and learned that the town is now at the stage of securing right-of-way from landowners, a task of variable and unpredictable difficulty depending on the properties.
Blake Mills, director of public works, asked that the council give his office permission to move forward with the condemnation of private property, if necessary, to allow the town to move forward with the first phase of the McCrimmon Parkway project, which would widen and improve the existing roadway. That phase is expected to cost $7.2 million. The second phase will extend the road, connecting Airport Boulevard and Aviation Parkway.
Construction is set to begin in December. Mills said he is concerned the town might not meet that deadline without condemnation as an option as it attempts to acquire the 21 properties needed to complete the project. The town must secure the project’s right-of-way by the end of June, Mills said.
Condemning properties in the path of the project would allow the town to force a sale in the case of property owners refusing the offered rate.
“We certainly don’t want to go to condemnation,” Mills said. “That’s the last thing we want to do, but even if we did file condemnation, we could still negotiate (a price with property owners).”
The council will vote May 24 whether to grant town staff permission to move forward with condemnation if negotiations reach an impasse.
Design progress on Morrisville-Carpenter Road
The council also received an update on the progress of Morrisville-Carpenter Road, which is to be widened into a four-lane divided highway. Rich Cappola, the town engineer, presented an analysis that shows recommendations for new intersection types along the roadway, as well as an estimate for the cost of acquiring the necessary right-of-way – about $1 million.
Councilwoman Liz Johnson asked if any of the intersections would include traffic lights. Cappola said that the data doesn’t show enough traffic for the state Department of Transportation to install one.
The council approved the proposed intersections, meaning noise assessments can begin based on the recommended design concept.
Cappola presented the council with other decisions it must make in the near future.
First, the state’s 16-foot median-width requirement could require designers to adjust proposed lane widths if the state doesn’t agree to an exception. Cappola asked whether the council was prepared to approve those changes. The council agreed, with some hoping for a state-approved exception.
“Clearly a reduced median is the best option,” Councilwoman Liz Johnson said. “If we aren’t reducing the bike lanes, then we’re bringing the road closer to the homes.”
Cappola also wanted to know whether and how the council would prefer to create a four-way intersection at the existing three-way junction of Town Hall Drive and Morrisville-Carpenter Road. That fourth leg would be formed by connecting Franklin Upchurch Sr. Street to Morrisville-Carpenter Road through land currently owned by GoTriangle, formerly known as the Triangle Transit Authority.
The council agreed it would like to see a four-way intersection but did not decide on a route for the new Franklin Upchurch Sr. Street. That decision would be related to whether the council chooses to purchase the entire GoTriangle property, which would allow for a longer connection and more road frontage for development.
Besides that parcel, Cappola also asked for assurances that the council would appropriate $1 million for the project’s right-of-way acquisition efforts by the November deadline. Late last year, the town applied for a federal grant through the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization that would have reimbursed the town for up to 80 percent of that cost. But Morrisville was denied that money earlier this year.
Ben Howell, Morrisville’s transportation planner, said the town’s decision to fund right-of-way acquisition in next year’s budget would help a potential CAMPO application, which could fund up to $6 million of the project’s $8 million construction costs. The town would apply for that grant in the fall and be awarded the money in February.
Pending the success of the acquisition process, construction should begin by January 2018.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly said that a grant awarded by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization could reimburse the town for up to $800,000 of the town’s right-of-way acquisition effort. The grant for the reimbursement was rejected last year, and a different grant application is being considered by the council. Rich Cappola’s name was spelled incorrectly.
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan