A $5.9 million appropriation approved by the Fuquay-Varina Board of Commissioners is the latest step toward the completion of Judd Parkway, which will completely encircle the town’s core when complete.
The final $12.75 million quarter of the loop is expected to be finished by late 2018, completing a project that’s been planned since the mid-1970s.
Meanwhile in Apex, similar efforts are underway to complete the Apex Peakway between South Salem Street and James Street. An open house to review the road’s preliminary design is Dec. 15 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Apex Town Hall.
Cities have long used roads known as beltlines, ring roads and loops to divert non-local and cross-city traffic from downtown streets. The proliferation of these roads in towns like Apex, Cary and Fuquay-Varina is useful for similar reasons. They also accommodate an increasing number of commuters from rural areas who must pass through these suburban towns on their way into the county’s urban core.
But these roads can be expensive and politically difficult, because they require towns to acquire what is often dense, expensive property all the way around their cores.
For example, the $5.9 million Fuquay-Varina commissioners approved Nov. 22 only covers the cost of purchasing the right-of-way – not road construction itself, which will likely cost an additional $10 million. That cost will be split 50-50 between a federal grant and money raised by the town’s transportation bond approved by residents last year.
“With any kind of loop road, it’s a little different with a linear roadway project where you can meander one way or the other,” said Russell Dalton, Apex’s chief transportation engineer. “You run a lot higher risk of hitting some major obstacles. And with loop roads, by nature, you’re operating in a more urban area, so your impacts are going to be a lot higher.”
That problem has arisen in Apex, where the town is preparing to commission a feasibility study to determine whether it’s worth completing the southeastern portion of the Peakway loop, which is proposed to run through a mobile home park. Building that section would require relocating the park’s residents and compensating the park’s owner for lost revenue. Dalton’s department is expecting to have an idea of whether to recommend construction to the council within six to eight months.
“There are some challenges with that one that may outweigh the benefit of making that connection,” said Adam Stephenson, Apex’s engineering supervisor.
For the moment, Cary has come to a similar conclusion with respect to one of its own loop projects. The northeast section of Cary Parkway first proposed in the early 2000s has not been able to overcome the practical difficulties associated with the proposed route’s path through Cary Academy’s property.
In Apex, the railroad bisecting town has also added to the cost of the project. It’s not cheap to separate a four-lane roadway from railway crossings. The proposed overpass has significantly raised the cost of the Peakway’s southwestern section, which is expected to be completed in 2018.
The cost of both that portion of the Peakway and the southeastern section is now estimated at almost $19 million, exceeding the $10 million the town had hoped to spend on the projects. A $2.5 million federal grant could account for some of that overrun, but not as much as the town would have hoped, Dalton said.
Both the Peakway and Judd Parkway have both been in the works for decades because of their organizational complexity. In outlining Judd Parkway’s most recent progress, Fuquay-Varina Mayor pro tem Blake Massengill acknowledged that these projects take time as well as money.
“Really, two years from now, we should see a lot of benefits,” Massengill said. “It takes a while to acquire right-of-way, so have a little patience.”
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan