More than 50 people gathered in downtown Raleigh to discuss a major construction project on Capital Boulevard that could displace more than a dozen property owners and businesses and temporarily slow traffic for the tens of thousands of people who use the corridor daily.
Among the crowd, the consensus was clear: The bridges at Peace Street and Wade Avenue need to be replaced, having fewer than 15 years left in their usable lives. But with a final design expected next year, locals are debating the road reconfigurations that the city of Raleigh and the Department of Transportation might sweep into the costly project.
For some, Tuesday’s meeting underlined just how much change was coming their way.
“I’ve been mentally preparing,” said Ed Malpass, whose Capital Auto business sits directly under the boulevard’s potential new exit to Wade Avenue. “I've been there for 30 years … once you relocate – if you could relocate – you lose your customer base that you have built up over all those years.”
Ultimately, the fate of his business will depend on which blueprint DOT, with city guidance, chooses. Starting with a dozen plans, the department has chosen two alternatives for each bridge. In both cases, a more expensive option would take up more land, affecting more properties while potentially bringing new benefits for drivers and pedestrians.
The baseline option, costing about $40 million, would rebuild the Capital bridge over Peace Street and the Wade Avenue overpass on Capital, largely as they are today. Standing for more than 58 years, the bridges at least need to be replaced, according to the DOT.
The alternatives would require millions in extra funding from the city and would pursue broader goals. An additional $11 million would redesign a city block near Peace Street, potentially paving the way for a northward downtown expansion, while $2.7 million more for a longer Wade Avenue exit with a stoplight would help industrial traffic and pedestrians alike, according to project engineer Derrick Weaver.
Under the alternatives:
• A “square loop” design would replace the cloverleaf at Peace, routing drivers along a realigned Johnson Street.
• A “diamond-trumpet” design would take drivers to and from Wade Avenue via long, straight ramps with a traffic signal, instead of the current sharp curl.
Henry Van Pala, whose family owns the site of an autobody shop, worried that changes to the Wade Avenue exit could limit access to his property. The project may close two of three driveways to the lot, which sits just west of the curling “trumpet” exit.
Driving in the area is difficult, he said, because “you have a lot of little driveways peppering Capital that don’t have a light,” he said.
Several bicyclists also attended the meeting, hoping to ensure that the new construction brought pedal-power lanes. “We’re concerned about these gateways,” said Mike Dayton, a member of Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Commission, referring to Capital’s position at the edge of downtown.
Charles and Vicki Phaneuf, who own a business and live in the Peace Street area, used the meeting’s huge maps to get oriented with the project, which could begin construction in June 2016.
“I think that’s why we came tonight – to see if we’re more nervous or optimistic,” the wife said.