Railroad crossing provides new connection between RTP and NC 55

A new railroad crossing has opened on O’Kelly Chapel Road, providing a new direct route between N.C. 55 and the southern end of Research Triangle Park.

The long-awaited crossing was financed by Kite Realty Group, the developer of Parkside Town Commons, a large retail complex at the corner of N.C. 55 and O’Kelly Chapel. The extension of O’Kelly Chapel across the tracks makes it easier to reach Parkside not only from RTP but also Morrisville and parts of Cary.

The crossing is the result of a deal between Kite Realty, the Town of Cary, the N.C. Department of Transportation and CSX railroad.

For safety reasons, CSX and NCDOT want to limit the number of rail crossings and sought a commitment from Cary to close two other crossings before they would allow the new one at O’Kelly Chapel. That dovetailed with the town’s plans to close crossings at Carpenter Fire Station Road and Morrisville Carpenter Road, which have long gotten backed up when trains passed, said Bob Shultes, a transportation engineer with the town.

The Carpenter Fire Station Road crossing was permanently closed in July, and this winter the town expects to begin building a new, wider segment of the road that will go under the tracks nearby. When that underpass opens in late 2022, the railroad crossing at nearby Morrisville Carpenter Road will close, too.

In addition to paying $1.27 million for the new O’Kelly Chapel crossing, Kite Realty is also putting up about $767,000 to close the other two crossings, according to the town. Cary has budgeted $30 million to build the new Carpenter Fire Station underpass, with about $17 million coming from a bond referendum approved by voters in 2012.

The opening of the O’Kelly Chapel crossing will alter traffic patterns in this corner of Wake County.

O’Kelly Chapel becomes Little Drive at the south end of RTP and crosses Louis Stephens Drive before coming to a T at Davis Drive. With the infusion of traffic from O’Kelly Chapel Road, NCDOT plans to install a traffic signal on Little at Louis Stephens, though the state is waiting for Duke Energy to provide power to the intersection, said John Sandor, the division traffic engineer. It could be late this year or early 2019 before the signal is up and operating, Sandor said.

There will also be a traffic signal installed at the intersection of Little and Davis drives to coincide with the opening of Parkside Elementary School next fall.

Traffic patterns will change again when NCDOT connects Louis Stephens Drive in RTP with a section of the road near the Breckenridge community in Morrisville, creating a new route in to RTP from the south. Construction work on that road is expected to begin next year.

Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling
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