An overhaul of Fuquay-Varina’s transportation plan has emphasized the need to build two new roads to bypass N.C. 55 and U.S. 401’s routes through the town.
Kimley-Horn, the civil engineering consultancy, was paid to draft the document. The firm presented research backing that recommendation at a meeting of the town’s transportation plan steering committee Feb. 2. Their preliminary recommendations suggest the roads – both four lanes wide with a median in the middle – will be necessary to maintaining acceptable traffic flow in and around town by 2040.
“Since time immemorial, there’s been an idea for two new facilities: one on the eastern side, one on the western side,” said Allison Flewitt, Kimley-Horn project manager. “There’s always been a general idea about where alignment-wise those might be. A question we raised was, ‘Is this needed? Are these going to be of measurable benefit to the network?’ ”
Flewitt said her team’s findings suggest the roads would significantly reduce pressure along congested roads closer to the center of town, which are in heavy demand at rush hour from both Fuquay-Varina residents and drivers passing through.
Eastern and Western parkways, as the two roads are conceptually known, have been on the books since the mid-1990s. They were included in the 2006 transportation plan, which has allowed the town to require developers to preserve right-of-way in bits and pieces as they build on land near the roads’ proposed paths.
Assistant Town Manager Mark Matthews said the roads would function as an “outer beltway,” swinging even farther east and west of downtown than Judd Parkway, which will form a full ring around Fuquay-Varina’s center when complete. Matthews said he wasn’t prepared to give an estimate of how much the two roads would cost to build, but a September 2015 report on future transportation initiatives projected a combined price tag of more than $115 million.
Preparing for the future
Fuquay-Varina’s new transportation plan is one of several revision processes the town has undertaken in recent months to reflect its growth during the past decade and to prepare for future growth. Fuquay-Varina’s land development ordinance was revised late last year, and the transportation and land use plans, which provide policy guidance rather than enforceable codes, are being redeveloped simultaneously, partly to ensure development complements rather than obstructs new roads such as these.
Together, Eastern and Western parkways would form a U-shape around the town, allowing those traveling on N.C. 55 and U.S. 401 to bypass the portions of those roads that pass directly through Fuquay-Varina. U.S. 401 becomes downtown Fuquay’s Main Street, while N.C. 55 becomes Broad Street, downtown Varina’s main road.
Western Parkway would stretch about 5 miles from N.C. 55 intersection with Hilltop Needmore extension to U.S. 401 South. Eastern Parkway is proposed to extend south 7.3 miles from U.S. 401 North’s intersection with Dwight Rowland Road and curve around to the west, meeting up with Western Parkway near its intersection with U.S. 401 south of town.
Town Engineer Tracy Stephenson, speaking at Feb. 2’s committee meeting, said the town would struggle to fund the roads by Kimley-Horn’s 2040 deadline. A $40 million, 4.2-mile portion of Eastern Parkway is currently part of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s 2040 transportation plan, meaning it is likely to receive some federal funding. Western Parkway is not listed on that plan.
“We understand that constructing those now is not a mountain we’re quite ready to start up,” Stephenson said. “But we need to start heading in that direction, or we’ll be disappointed with where we’re at sometime around 2035.”
Beyond Kimley-Horn’s analysis of those two major projects, the firm’s work on the transportation plan includes a centralization of various other agencies’ plans for transportation infrastructure in the area, including those of the N.C. Department of Transportation, Wake County and existing recommendations from town staff.
They also have recommended standards for retrofitting some of the town’s rural roadways to feature wider travel lanes and parallel multi-use paths for cyclists and pedestrians.
A workshop to solicit input on the recommendations and the transportation plan is scheduled March 2.
Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan
Want to get involved?
▪ A transportation steering committee meeting is Feb. 22 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall. It is open to the public.
▪ Fuquay-Varina is hosting a public workshop March 2 to solicit public input on Kimley-Horn’s recommendations and the town’s current transportation plan. The meeting is 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Fuquay-Varina Public Service Center, 1415 Holland Road.