For two weeks next month, construction work will likely shut down a two-block stretch of Hillsborough Street near N.C. State University, sending drivers on a one-mile detour and making several businesses hard to reach.
Developer John Kane will seek approval for the closure at Tuesday’s Raleigh City Council meeting. He says the closure – from Dixie Trail to Concord Street – is necessary to move sewer lines for his 250-unit student apartment complex.
“We hate closing that road, but there didn’t seem to be any safe way to not do that,” Kane said.
To minimize the traffic woes, Kane agreed to schedule the work while N.C. State students are on winter break, from Dec. 19 to Jan. 5. Kane’s company wants construction crews to work around the clock, although late-night operations will have to stay within the city’s noise ordinance to avoid disturbing surrounding neighborhoods.
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“We certainly are trying to do our best to do it as quickly as we can,” he said.
According to engineers working on the project, leaving one lane of Hillsborough Street would prolong the construction for months. City and state transportation officials have reviewed the plans and agreed that Kane’s company isn’t closing the street “out of convenience,” Raleigh transportation engineer Jed Niffenegger said.
“We’ve had several meetings to determine that what they requested is absolutely needed,” he added. “We’re looking out for the commuting public.”
As part of the agreement with the city, Kane will provide $1,850 to cover lost revenues from a red-light camera that fines speeders at Hillsborough and Dixie. He’ll also be responsible for notifying surrounding neighborhoods about the closure and making sure businesses on the blocked street can remain open.
‘We’ll get the word out’
But on Monday, the shops across from Kane’s property hadn’t heard about the plans. Jeff Gold of Cup A Joe said he expects the traffic issues will prompt some of his customers to seek coffee elsewhere.
“We’ll get the word out that there’ll be disruptions, and we hope they’ll make their way here,” he said.
The parking lot for Cup A Joe and its neighbors, Nice Price Books and Guru Guitars, will remain open. But to get there, customers will need to wind their way through neighborhoods behind the shops and enter from Daisy Street.
With a complicated detour, slower business is inevitable. When Hillsborough Street saw construction and detours for a streetscape improvement project several years ago, shops and restaurants reported a 20 to 30 percent drop in sales.
The primary detour for Kane’s utility work will take drivers headed west up Dixie Trail to Wade Avenue, then back to Hillsborough Street on Faircloth Street. For about four days in December, the detour will use Brooks Avenue instead of Dixie – the corner of Dixie and Hillsborough will be blocked.
Finding own detours
Niffenegger isn’t sure how bad the traffic will get, but he expects many people will find their own detour.
“People who live along Brooks and Dixie will have increased traffic compared to what they’re used to,” he said. “Since we’re doing it when school’s out, we’re hoping the congestion won’t be as bad.”
Kane’s Stanhope Center will wrap apartments and ground-floor retail space around the entire block between Friendly Drive and Concord Street, now home to a cluster of rundown, vacant storefronts. The five-story building will be completed in July 2015.