One major Beltline construction project postponed as another prepares to get started

NCDOT starting over on plans to alleviate traffic around Crabtree Valley Mall

The N.C. Department of Transportation is starting from scratch as it looks at options to help ease congestion on the roads around Crabtree Valley Mall near the Raleigh Beltline.
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The N.C. Department of Transportation is starting from scratch as it looks at options to help ease congestion on the roads around Crabtree Valley Mall near the Raleigh Beltline.

The N.C. Department of Transportation has postponed the planned overhaul of the Glenwood Avenue interchange with the Beltline, meaning drivers won’t have to endure two major construction projects along Interstate 440 at one time.

NCDOT had planned to award a contract this year to reconstruct the interchange, redesign the intersection where Glenwood meets Blue Ridge and Lead Mine roads and replace the bridge that carries Blue Ridge over Crabtree Creek. The state estimated the work would cost $231.3 million.

Now NCDOT isn’t certain that it has the money and has pushed the date for awarding a contract back to 2025. Joey Hopkins, NCDOT’s top engineer for the region, said the delay was the result of the department’s regular biennial reassessment of what it wants to do and the money it has available to do it.

“Every two years, you’re making adjustments based on where you are at that time,” Hopkins said in an interview. “And over that two-year period, things change.”

As of now, construction work at Glenwood will not begin until after contractors have finished widening the last four-lane section of the Beltline a few miles south, between Wade Avenue and I-40. That project, which includes reconfiguring the interchanges at Wade, Hillsborough Street and Western Boulevard, is expected to get underway this year and take four years to complete.

Hopkins shared the schedule change in an email to Raleigh residents who attended meetings about the project with the department and its consultants.

He acknowledged that many residents who live on or around Ridge Road had urged the state to postpone the Glenwood Avenue work until after the Beltline widening was complete. Residents argued that eliminating the bottleneck on Interstate 440 could change the flow of traffic in ways that would influence the state’s plans for Glenwood.

City Council member Stef Mendell, whose district includes Ridge Road and the Glenwood interchange, said the postponement was welcome news.

“There were a lot of neighborhood residents who felt very strongly that the impact of other changes to the Beltline should inform any decisions about changes to the I-440/Ridge Road/Glenwood Avenue interchange,” Mendell wrote in an email. “It is gratifying to see that apparently was taken into account.”

Residents of the Ridge Road area are worried that changes at Glenwood Avenue will result in more traffic and the loss of property in their neighborhoods. Those concerns have not gone away, said Robert Rice, who heads the Glenwood Citizens Advisory Council.

“A delay is not a cancel, and this project, as intended, is not good for Raleigh,” Rice wrote in an email. “There is no guarantee that schedules will not shift again with the project happening before 2025, and there is still great concern about the uncertainty of the project design and plans.”

Residents are particularly anxious that NCDOT may extend Crabtree Valley Avenue so that it connects directly with the Beltline near where it meets Ridge Road. The goal would be to give visitors to Crabtree Valley Mall an alternative to Glenwood, but it’s not clear yet how much land the new interchange would require or what it means for the current connection between Ridge and the Beltline.

To try to ensure that residents were heard, NCDOT held a series of “listening sessions” this fall, followed by a town hall-style discussion organized by the Glenwood CAC in which Hopkins and city transportation planner Eric Lamb answered questions.

NCDOT has also invited three design firms to develop options for reconfiguring the Glenwood interchange based in part on what they’ve heard from residents. Despite the postponement, NCDOT still plans to present the results to the public sometime this spring, Hopkins said.

Judy Coggins says she hopes those designs reflect the importance that she and her neighbors place on open green space and the trees that buffer them from the highway. Coggins owns more than 18 mostly wooded acres at the confluence of Ridge Road and the Beltline and could lose some of it to a new Crabtree Valley Avenue interchange.

Coggins says she’s “cautiously optimistic” about the influence residents are having on the project.

“After Joey Hopkins became more closely involved in the project, he was very helpful in sharing information and took an active role in giving the public a real voice,” Coggins wrote in an email. “Hopefully he’ll stay involved in the future. It appears that we are being listened to. I hope that continues.”

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.