Three years after the core of Hillsborough Street was revamped for pedestrians and bikes, another half-mile stretch to the west will soon get the same treatment.
Business owners, neighbors and anyone else who uses Hillsborough between Gardner Street (near Man-Mur Barber Shop) and Shepherd Street (near Reader’s Corner) will get a chance to weigh in on the $11 million changes Tuesday night at a public forum. Starting in spring 2016, workers will tear up the street to build a center median, new bike lanes and three roundabouts to replace stoplights.
Eric Lamb, the city’s transportation planning manager, said the first overhaul on Hillsborough Street from the Bell Tower west has helped cut pedestrian accidents and improve the business climate. “I think it’s moving in a positive direction,” he said. “We think the project had some significant benefits.”
In the next round, traffic circles will be the most notable change. They’ll replace stoplights at Brooks Avenue, Dixie Trail and Rosemary/Shepherd streets, keeping traffic flowing and likely cutting into neighboring property.
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Those roundabouts will look more like Hillsborough’s current circle at Morgan Street than the controversial one in front of the Bell Tower. Still rare in Raleigh, the roundabouts have prompted outcry from some drivers who find them confusing.
In the first round of Hillsborough changes, opponents scuttled a plan for an additional traffic circle at Logan Court near Bruegger’s Bagels, which would have allowed the city to remove a stoplight in front of the Sadlack’s Heroes site.
“That signal is responsible for a lot of the congestion associated with that area,” Lamb said, pointing to rush-hour problems that back up into the Bell Tower roundabout.
Lamb said the next round of Hillsborough changes likely won’t harm traffic flow, because the section already has just one lane in each direction.
The plans do call for a major change for traffic headed on and off N.C. State’s campus. The stoplight at Hilllsborough and Dan Allen Drive would be removed, with a new median allowing only right turns at the intersection.
“That idea is less radical than it used to be,” Lamb said, noting that traffic on Dan Allen has decreased because new gates keep drivers from cutting through campus to Western Boulevard.
The proposed changes also would likely affect on-street parking, limiting spaces to the south side of Hillsborough in front of the N.C. State campus and the under-construction Stanhope apartments. Project engineer Ken Dunn said he’s not sure whether parking in front of Cup A Joe will be kept. A wider sidewalk there could allow for more outdoor dining.
After Tuesday’s meeting, the city will develop more detailed designs by June and seek more feedback. Construction should take about a year and will create hassles similar to the first phase of the Hillsborough changes. Back then, commuters complained of frequent lane closures and jams, and some businesses said they lost 20 percent of sales.
Dunn said the city will try to minimize those problems. “The way we’re going to most benefit business is to get in there and get out of there as fast as we can,” he said.