Don’t count on Walnut Street for a smooth, easy ride into downtown Cary this summer.
Construction crews have turned it into a hot, dusty ditch decorated with orange traffic cones.
It’s all part of the town’s $1.5 million plan to repave Walnut Street from Cary Towne Boulevard in the south to Kildaire Farm Road in the north.
The project, which is partially funded by a bond referendum approved by Cary voters in 2012, will add a pedestrian crossing at the intersection of Walnut and Ralph Drive.
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When it’s complete, the four-lane road will sufficiently carry about 13,000 vehicles a day for the next 20 years.
“The condition of the asphalt was just terrible,” Cary Town Councilman Don Frantz said. “If you were heading to Cary Towne Center from downtown, you could barely stay in your lane because of the potholes and places tree roots had broken through.”
The Town Council considered giving Walnut Street a “road diet” in which it would be reduced to one lane in each direction, with the addition of bike lanes and a median.
The plan would have been less expensive, but the council opted to repave the road under its current alignment after receiving pushback from residents who said it would hinder access to their properties.
Town leaders are now asking residents to bear with them as construction disrupts traffic this summer.
“This is the hard part right now, in the first two weeks,” said Kyle Hubert, the project manager.
People who live on Walnut have had limited access to their homes since construction began June 16, he said.
Town leaders hope construction crews will be able to lay the third and final layer of asphalt before classes start in August at Cary Elementary and Cary High schools, which are located at opposite ends of the road.
Most of the work will take place between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays, with work starting an hour later on Saturdays.
A section of Walnut Street from Kildaire Farm Road to Byrum Street is expected to be closed through the weekend.
After that, construction will begin from Byrum to Cary Towne Boulevard, and half of the street will be open to traffic.
The town has paid close attention to Walnut Street and other roads leading downtown.
Last year, Cary completed a roundabout at each end of Chatham Street – one where Chatham intersects with East Durham Road, the other where it intersects with Old Apex Road.
This fall, the town plans to begin upgrades to the interchange at Walnut and U.S. 1 near the Crossroads Plaza shopping center.
Workers will install a median on Walnut Street from Buck Jones Road to the U.S. 1 ramps on the east side of the bridge. They’ll also widen the north side of the bridge to add a lane and sidewalk.