If this fall’s transportation bond passes, New Bern Avenue will get a pedestrian-friendly makeover, but it’s not the only change being discussed for the city’s eastern commuter artery.
The $75 million bond package approved last week directs $4 million for New Bern Avenue improvements. City leaders had earlier considered using that money for a rapid-transit bus line along the road, but Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said the infrastructure isn’t ready to support that.
“Could we put $4 million toward transit-related improvements that would improve that corridor and make taking the bus a better experience?” she asked during a recent bond discussion.
If funded, the improvements would run from Tarboro Street east of downtown to Sunnybrook Road near WakeMed. On stretches where pedestrians walk through ditches and medians, the city would build sidewalks and bike lanes.
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For bus riders who currently jaywalk frequently, the project also calls for improved crosswalks and concrete “pedestrian refuges” in the middle of the street. Installing better bus stops and shelters is an option, too. “That’s up for discussion,” said Eric Lamb, the city’s transportation planning manager. Councilman John Odom pointed out recently that several of the stops require riders to await the bus while sitting on a guardrail.
Bus service is already set for an upgrade outside of the bond package. The city council’s new budget allots $700,000 for more frequent service on six routes. Along New Bern, that will mean the bus comes every 15 minutes during weekday daytime hours and every 30 minutes on weekends. The New Bern/WakeMed route is one of Capital Area Transit’s busiest lines.
New Bern Avenue has similar needs east of WakeMed, but solutions for that section will have to wait. Raleigh will need a partnership with the N.C. Department of Transportation to overhaul the Interstate 440 interchange, which pits pedestrians on narrow bridges against speeding cars from the Beltline. “Its current design doesn’t really make it easy for pedestrians to cross,” Lamb said.
Also in the works is a transit hub on New Hope Road near Walmart, where several bus lines cross. And a community group – calling itself Citizens and Businesses for a Green, Clean, Safe and Prosperous New Bern Avenue – wants to see more frequent maintenance and mowing along the median.
In a series of emails to city leaders, Dora King-Morgan has argued in recent weeks that Knightdale mows its medians more frequently, making the road look shabby as drivers cross into Raleigh. City Manager Russell Allen replied that the city doesn’t have money for the extra work.
On the opposite end of the road, residents are talking about converting New Bern and Edenton Street to two-way traffic. Neighborhood leader Mark Turner floated the idea to the Raleigh City Council last week.
“I strongly feel nothing would provide an economic boost to the east side of town as much as making these streets friendlier to local traffic and pedestrians, and making them less like miniature freeways,” Turner wrote.
Lamb said that idea came up in a recent study but was tabled until the next round of downtown planning. Another option is reversing the one-way pair – sending inbound traffic on New Bern and traffic from downtown on Edenton. That, Lamb noted, would provide better views of the city skyline and Capitol.