A plan to add roundabouts and bike lanes to another section of Hillsborough Street got a lukewarm reception from neighbors who fear the changes could choke traffic and divert cars onto residential streets.
City officials presented the latest designs Thursday for a $7 million overhaul, which would extend a more bike and pedestrian-focused approach west to Shepherd Street, near the Reader’s Corner bookstore.
The first phase of the Hillsborough Street changes were completed several years ago, drawing a few complaints about slower traffic along the commercial strip facing N.C. State University. Some drivers have also been befuddled by the Bell Tower roundabout, although city studies found the change has resulted in fewer crashes.
Roundabouts would become more common when the new construction is complete in spring 2017. Three more traffic circles would replace stoplights at Shepherd/Rosemary streets, Dixie Trail and Brooks Avenue.
Jeff Moore of Kimley-Horn and Associates, which drew up the new plans for the city, said the roundabouts aren’t to blame for slower traffic. The first changes to Hillsborough created more pedestrian stoplights and parallel parking activity west of the Bell Tower.
“The combination of that is creating some of the delays that you see,” he said.
Most of the complaints voiced Thursday focused on the loss of a third lane. One resident said the extra lane serves as a “pop-off valve” allowing traffic to flow around stopped delivery trucks and buses.
Some worried that having just two lanes – necessary to make room for bike lanes – would stall traffic, diverting cars to Western Boulevard or Wade Avenue and hurting shops.
Others said they’ve already seen drivers using Clark Avenue and other neighborhood streets to avoid stop-and-go traffic.
“Let’s consider the effect on all the neighborhoods with all the extra traffic,” said John Lambert, who lives in University Park.
City officials also heard requests to bury power lines during construction to make the street more attractive. Moore said that would cost millions and isn’t possible with the project budget.
Other changes proposed for Hillsborough between Gardner and Shepherd include:
• Wider sidewalks, which would mean the loss of on-street parking in some areas including the strip housing Nice Price Books and Cup-A-Joe coffee
• No left turns allowed for traffic coming from Dan Allen Drive, although Hillsborough Street traffic could still make a left onto Dan Allen
• Right turns only at Daisy Street, Concord Street, Bagwell Avenue and numerous private driveways, which would force drivers to make U-turns at the nearest roundabout
• A “raised pedestrian zone” on the south side of Brooks Avenue for improved safety
Consultants will take comments from Thursday’s meeting and present a final draft of the design to the Raleigh City Council in November. Construction could begin as soon as spring 2016.