A city plan to ease traffic congestion on Six Forks Road near the North Hills shopping center doesn’t go far enough, Raleigh leaders say.
Citing the need to discourage traffic and accommodate the Wake Transit Plan, the Raleigh City Council on Tuesday postponed adoption of a multimillion-dollar plan to renovate the Six Forks corridor from Lynn Road to Interstate 440, known as the Beltline.
The Six Forks corridor plan would make the entire street six lanes, would separate bike lanes from the road using curbs and would decrease the speed limit to 35 mph along the entire 2.2-mile stretch. Council members said they liked most of the plan, but would rather incorporate lanes exclusively for bus use than to add regular lanes.
Adding lanes seems “like a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem,” Councilman Russ Stephenson said.
The Wake transit plan, which county commissioners are expected to ask voters to fund through a half-cent sales tax referendum this fall, calls for quicker transportation around Wake using bus rapid transit, known as BRT. BRT typically provides faster service than other automobile traffic by running in dedicated lanes and getting special priority at traffic signals.
Under the transit plan, the North Hills shopping center on Six Forks would become a “major hub,” with bus service every 15 minutes, said Eric Lamb, Raleigh’s transportation planning manager. Raleigh staff surveyed residents about a dedicated bus lane, Lamb said, but the idea didn’t receive much support.
The city will regret not including bus lanes, Councilwoman Kay Crowder said. Mayor Nancy McFarlane agreed, saying she wants a BRT lane to replace at least one of the six lanes along the corridor.
Few would ride a bus along the Six Forks corridor if it has to sit in traffic with all the other cars, McFarlane said.
“The whole goal, if you’re going to put in something new, is to make it faster so people want to use it,” McFarlane said, adding that she hopes all six lanes can be used for all traffic until a BRT system is adopted.
The council opted to discuss the Six Forks plan in further depth during a work session, likely in March.
The plan costs an estimated $44 million, but city staff members said Raleigh could require infill developers to fund some of it. City staff would like to finish the initial construction phase in the next six years, but Raleigh likely can’t start without additional funding – like that provided through a bond referendum, Lamb said.
City staff started working on a vision for upgrades in 2012 and held several public meetings along the corridor before producing the plan that was presented Tuesday.
The plan represents both good and bad news for that area of Raleigh.
Kane Realty’s redevelopment of the North Hills shopping center about 16 years ago is widely considered one of Raleigh’s biggest development success stories. North Hills includes retail stores, restaurants, luxury apartments and looming office towers. Nearby property values are up.
However, the area’s popularity has drawn so much new traffic that some consider Six Forks frightening to drive on. Between 36,000 and 48,000 cars drive on Six Forks each day – more than the road was built for, Lamb said.
So some area residents, such as Patrick Martin, welcomed the council’s delay. Martin, a longtime resident who lives on Foxhall Street, doesn’t want to add regular traffic lanes.
“Six lanes ... is basically Capital Boulevard,” he said. “We need to take more time and have more review and more thought put into it.”