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Blount and Person streets, Wake Forest Road are losing lanes for cars by year’s end

Blount Street, shown here at the intersection with Cabarrus Street, and Person Street will soon be reduced from three lanes to two in downtown Raleigh, in part to make room for bicycle lanes.
Blount Street, shown here at the intersection with Cabarrus Street, and Person Street will soon be reduced from three lanes to two in downtown Raleigh, in part to make room for bicycle lanes. rstradling@newsobserver.com

Person and Blount streets, and a section of Wake Forest Road just north of downtown, will get makeovers in the coming years that will start with reducing the number of lanes for cars to make more room for cyclists.

Wake Forest Road will go from four lanes to three, including a center turn lane, from Capital Boulevard south into downtown. Person and Blount — one-way streets that are three lanes wide in many places — will be made uniformly two-lane streets up and down the east side of downtown.

Construction work is set to begin this month. The public will get a chance to learn about the work and ask questions at a meeting that begins at 6 p.m. Thursday at the City of Raleigh Museum, 220 Fayetteville St.

The $3.26 million project entails repaving Wake Forest Road and Person and Blount streets north of Edenton Street; south of Edenton to Hoke Street, the lane markings will be redrawn without replacing the pavement, said Beth Quinn, the project manager for the city.

Quinn said the contractor will have to block off lanes at times, but only between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. or at night.

“During rush hour, there will be no lane closures allowed,” she said.

It may seem illogical to reduce the number of travel lanes on downtown streets when the area is thriving and developers continue to hatch plans for new buildings. But Quinn said studies done for the city showed traffic will move on Blount and Person just as well.

“It’s very tight right now,” Quinn said of the sections with three lanes. “Even though you’re losing a lane, by providing larger lanes and what feels safer for drivers, it will flow better in those areas.”

Meanwhile, the new bike lanes along Blount, Person and Wake Forest will not only make it easier for cyclists to get around downtown, but also connect two greenway trails on the north and south sides of the city, Quinn said.

The repaving and restriping are part one of a multiyear effort to overhaul Blount and Person streets that will likely include turning them into two-way streets. Quinn said the city decided to put off any decisions about converting the streets to two-way until the route of the planned bus rapid transit line on the east side of town is settled.

With bus rapid transit, or BRT, a GoRaleigh bus will drive in its own lane, with stops at covered platforms where riders will buy their tickets in advance. The BRT line that serves the east side of downtown will likely use a section of Blount Street to get to GoRaleigh Station, which would complicate turning it into a two-way street there, Quinn said.

She said the public will be involved in the design work for the two-way conversion, which should get underway soon. That construction work likely won’t happen for two years or more.

The repaving and restriping work getting started this month should be done by Christmas, Quinn said.

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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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