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Beltline project made residents anxious; now NCDOT is back with seven alternatives

When residents along Ridge Road expressed concerns about the state’s plans to overhaul the Beltline interchange with Glenwood Avenue, the N.C. Department of Transportation hired three engineering firms to meet with them and develop some options.

Now the NCDOT is ready to unveil seven different approaches to redesigning the interchange and the nearby intersection of Glenwood with Lead Mine and Blue Ridge roads. The public will be able to see them and provide feedback from 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 25, at the Hilton Garden Inn at 3912 Arrow Dr.

The designs are the result of four “listening sessions” that NCDOT organized last September to hear from residents their concerns and ideas about the project. Representatives of the three engineering firms were on hand and were each asked to come up with three designs for improving traffic around the interchange and Crabtree Valley Mall.

Two of the nine designs were deemed too impractical to build, said Joey Hopkins, NCDOT’s division engineer. Those two will be on display at the open house, along with designs developed several years ago for the City of Raleigh, Hopkins said, but the NCDOT is primarily interested in hearing what people think about the seven new ones it considers plausible.

NCDOT is soliciting public feedback on the designs even though construction has been delayed several years. The state had expected to award a construction contract this year, but now that’s not likely to happen until 2025.

The goal of the project is to relieve congestion by changing the way people drive between the Beltline and the mall. In addition to reconfiguring the Glenwood Avenue interchange, the state considered extending Crabtree Valley Avenue, the street that runs behind the mall, to create a new interchange with the Beltline.

Residents along Ridge Road and surrounding neighborhoods worried that the changes would funnel more traffic their way, as well as destroy mature trees that buffer their neighborhood from the Beltline.

None of the seven new designs include extending Crabtree Valley Avenue to the Beltline for a separate interchange, though two of them provide a direct link between the street and the highway at the main Glenwood interchange; and most of them discontinue direct access between the Beltline and Ridge Road.

The outcry from residents, which included yard signs that read “Save Ridge Road,” forced NCDOT to start over with its designs. Hopkins said the listening sessions were a new approach for the department and that they might become a model for future projects where public interest is high.

For more information about the Glenwood Avenue project, go to www.ncdot.gov/projects/i-440-glenwood/.

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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.
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