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Dilemma in Cary: Should Maynard Road go over or under the railroad tracks?

One of two options for closing the Maynard Road rail crossing near East Chatham Street. This option entails building an underpass to carry the road under the railroad tracks.
One of two options for closing the Maynard Road rail crossing near East Chatham Street. This option entails building an underpass to carry the road under the railroad tracks.

The state Department of Transportation wants to get rid of the busy railroad crossing at Maynard Road near East Chatham Street and is ready to share its ideas with the public.

NCDOT has come up with two options: Build a bridge to carry Maynard over the tracks or dig an underpass to take the road underneath. The public can see what each would look like at a public open house Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Herbert C. Young Community Center, 101 Wilkinson Ave. in Cary.

“These are very conceptual, overview type of designs that we’re showing,” said Matthew Potter, a consultant who is the project manager for NCDOT. “We‘re mainly trying to get comments on the concept itself of going over versus going under.”

NCDOT says replacing the crossing with a bridge will improve safety along one of the state’s busiest rail corridors. The addition of two daily runs of Amtrak’s Piedmont train this summer means that 10 passengers trains pass through Cary each day, on top of an average of eight freight trains. The Wake County Transit Plan calls for using the corridor for commuter trains between Garner and Durham by 2027.

Traffic on Maynard comes to a stop each time the crossing arms come down for those trains; the backups can be particularly bad after the longer and slower freight trains. That the crossing is so close to East Chatham Street and Chapel Hill Road complicates matters.

“It’s not just the Maynard traffic that’s delayed,” Potter said. “It pushes back on other streets as well.”

Potter said NCDOT doesn’t have a preference for going over or under the tracks, which will remain at ground level in either case. Both options have their advantages and drawbacks.

A bridge over the tracks would likely take more real estate, with large slopes needed to carry the street 25 feet into the air, but it could be built without closing the road. The underpass, in contrast, would likely require closing Maynard Road for two to three years, Potter said.

“It would be a fairly significant amount of time for traffic to be shut down in that area,” he said.

Going under the rails creates some construction challenges, said James Bridges, project development manager for NCDOT. Because the tracks must remain open, NCDOT would have to build a parallel set to use while it builds the permanent bridge over Maynard.

NCDOT expects to base its decision in part on public feedback and then present its plan at a hearing next summer. The state would begin acquiring land it needs in 2022 and start construction in early 2024.

Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling
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