The intersection of Kildaire Farm Road and Cary Parkway will soon become easier to navigate – and it will stay just as pretty.
The Cary Town Council voted 5-1 on Thursday to approve a plan that will add right-turn lanes to southbound Kildaire Farm Road and each side of Cary Parkway.
That stretch of Kildaire Farm Road is currently five lanes, one of which is a left-turn lane. Cary Parkway has the same alignment but has a median.
The intersection doesn’t function at efficiency standards set by the N.C. Department of Transportation. The council budgeted $1.1 million on a plan to try to improve it.
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If Cary made no changes, drivers would experience an average afternoon delay of 130 seconds by the year 2020.
Under the plan approved Thursday, drivers are expected to experience an average afternoon delay of about 70 seconds by 2020.
Town staff recommended a proposal that would have reduced average afternoon delays to 62 seconds by 2020. But that plan called for the town to remove trees from a median on Cary Parkway in order to add dual left-turn lanes.
“Our trees are worth eight seconds,” Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said, referring to the projected delays. “We’ve always said if you’re gonna be stuck in traffic, it might as well look good.”
Residents also spoke out against the median destruction at the meeting.
“Please assure that all trees (in the median) are a highly desirable species,” John Yoakum said.
Even Councilman Ed Yerha, who opposed the plan, said he shared residents’ concerns for preserving the aesthetic condition of the intersection.
“This is an iconic intersection in Cary, and I think we have to take that into consideration,” he said.
The council’s penchant for maintaining eye-pleasing roads may also influence its strategy for addressing safety concerns on High Meadow Drive.
The road runs behind the Trader Joe’s grocery store that sits at the northeast side of the intersection.
Some council members have said the road often gets dangerously clogged because drivers attempt to turn left into the Trader Joe’s parking lot from High Meadow Drive.
Town staff recommended installing thin, yellow “delineator posts” that would prevent drivers from turning left into or out of the parking lot from High Meadow Drive.
But council members delayed a decision on installing the posts, saying they worried the posts would be ugly.
“I hate the flexible delineator posts,” Councilman Don Frantz said. “I appreciate what they do. But they’re hideous.”
Also, the owners of the shopping center are concerned that vacant spaces would be harder to rent to businesses because the posts would restrict access to the shopping center, Councilman Jack Smith said.
“I think we’re kind of over-fixing this,” he said. “I don’t know how to fix it. But we have to do something there.”
The council directed town staff to study other options for improving the safety and traffic flow on High Meadow Drive.
Construction at the intersection is expected to begin in late 2015, said Kristen Dwiggins, the project engineer.