NCDOT starting over on plans to alleviate traffic around Crabtree Valley Mall
The regional engineer for the N.C. Department of Transportation told city council members this week that the state doesn’t have a specific plan for redoing the Glenwood Avenue interchange on the Beltline and that when the state does develop one it will bring it to the council to review.
Joey Hopkins also said NCDOT will not put forward a plan that would make nearby Ridge Road less safe. Hopkins told the three members of the council’s transportation committee that NCDOT’s goal is to reduce congestion on Glenwood Avenue near Crabtree Valley Mall.
“We don’t see the need to add any traffic to Ridge to alleviate traffic on Glenwood,” said Hopkins, the lead engineer for the division that includes Wake County.
Hopkins spoke after nearly two dozen people who live on or near Ridge Road told council members they feared NCDOT’s project in Crabtree Valley would harm their green corner of the city. Some said they felt deceived by NCDOT, which they contend knew what it wanted to do at Glenwood as early as last winter while telling the public otherwise, and that they don’t trust the state to protect their interests.
“We need your help. We need your protection,” Judy Coggins told the council members. “I know this is not your neighborhood, but please fight for this as if it were.”
‘We were betrayed’
The residents were responding to plans that show a new extension of Crabtree Valley Avenue — the street that runs behind the mall — connecting to the Beltline as part of the reconfigured Glenwood interchange. One version of the plan also shows Crabtree Valley Avenue connecting with Ridge Road. The two maps were among documents related to the Glenwood project that Coggins received through a Freedom of Information Act request.
That NCDOT had these plans while telling people that it was starting from scratch at public meetings last spring led some residents to say the state has lied to them.
“I feel like we were betrayed,” Tom Ford, a retired prosecutor who lives on Ridge Road, told council members. “I know you were not complicit in that. Don’t be complicit in that.”
Hopkins said the two maps that showed the interchange were developed in 2011 as part of a city plan for the Crabtree Valley area. He said while NCDOT planned to refer to the maps it was not ready to present them to the public and has since determined that neither would work as they appear in the diagrams.
Hopkins said NCDOT has ruled out connecting Crabtree Valley Avenue to Ridge Road, but will consider a direct connection from Crabtree Valley to the Beltline.
But Ridge residents fear the land needed for new exit and entrance ramps would eat in to wooded land that Coggins owns at the entrance to their neighborhood. Several cast doubt on the need to make it easier for mall traffic to get to and from the Beltline.
“The problem with Glenwood is commuter traffic, not mall traffic,” said Toler Ratledge, an attorney who specializes in real estate.
Another attorney, former mayor Charles Meeker, spoke on behalf of Coggins, saying that NCDOT needs to improve traffic flow on Glenwood by making changes to Glenwood, not other streets.
“This is not a rural project where you can put loops everywhere,” Meeker said. “You need to stick within the right of way.”
Residents of the Ridge Road area have been anxious about the Glenwood Avenue project since an NCDOT representative appeared before a Citizens Advisory Council meeting to talk about it in March. The subsequent outcry prompted NCDOT to hire a liaison to work with the community and schedule four “listening sessions” to hear from residents earlier this fall. The state also has hired three engineering firms to work separately to develop proposals for improving Glenwood Avenue and the interchange based in part on what they heard at those sessions.
Hopkins said those engineers will be starting from scratch and that when their ideas are distilled into workable options NCDOT will present them to the public.
NCDOT’s webpage for the project, www.ncdot.gov/projects/i-440-glenwood/, still says the state hopes to award a contract for final designs and construction next spring. Hopkins acknowledged Tuesday that the extra time needed to develop a plan with public support means the state won’t be ready then.
“We will take as long as needed to get this part of the process right,” he said.
In the end, the three members of the city council’s transportation committee — Corey Branch, David Cox and Kay Crowder — passed a resolution urging the council to oppose any direct connection between Ridge Road and Crabtree Valley Avenue and to insist that NCDOT bring its plans for the project to the council to review.