Cary News

Cary, NCDOT working with homeowners to improve traffic on High House Drive

Three approved residential developments may complicate an already tricky traffic situation on High House Road as up to 108 new homes are added to the area.

Residents in the Westpark, Wellsley, Hadley Place, Somerset and Berkeley say they’re not opposed to new development. But they are worried about increasing car numbers and vehicle speeds that come with the additional residents.

More than 300 people have signed an online petition requesting a traffic study to find a solution to mitigate traffic issues.

Cary town staff, the N.C. Department of Transportation and nearby residents are working together to find a solution for the area between Davis Drive and N.C. 55.

On Feb. 25, the Cary Town Council approved the third development in the area in two years. It would allow for a maximum of 10 single-family homes on the north side of High House Road, less than half a mile east of N.C. 55.

About a dozen people attended the meeting, concerned with how the development could have a negative effect on traffic, particularly in conjunction with the two previously approved projects.

Neighbors cited difficulties making left turns and U-turns because of the high volume of traffic. But for some, they have no choice because of the addition of a median in recent years on High House Road in front of the entrances to the Cornerstone Presbyterian Church and Wellsley subdivision.

Because of the added median, drivers can’t turn left out of the church lot or adjacent neighborhood. As a result, drivers are making more U-turns, particularly at the intersection in front of the Berkeley subdivision.

“I’m not here to oppose this rezoning request,” said Andrew Wagner, a Wellsley resident, Thursday. “But to express concern that this proposed development seems to tip the scales on a bad traffic situation that was not addressed during the previous two High House neighborhoods that have been recently approved. ”

A cumulative problem

Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson said that if all three projects had been brought before the council as one development, they would have triggered a traffic study. But because they came in as three smaller projects, none of them required a study.

In 2015, the Cary Town Council considered an ordinance amendment to address areas where multiple smaller development projects would cumulatively require a traffic study.

“We’ve been dealing with those cumulative effects on traffic for years,” councilman Don Frantz said. “No matter which way you slice and dice it, there was really nothing we could do because it ended up punishing the last guy in.”

This was why the council still approved rezoning the property for the new development at last week’s meeting. Council members said they didn’t want to penalize a quality project for being the last to be approved.

“I think it’s a good project,” Robinson said. “I think it dovetails the community nicely.”

But the council is still determined to find a solution to traffic issues on that segment of High House Road.

“It’s not our chance. It’s our duty to fix this for the customers or all the citizens that live along this road,” councilwoman Lori Bush said.

Finding a solution

Jerry Jensen, Cary’s transportation manager, has been working with surrounding homeowners and NCDOT officials to find a solution. He said Monday that NCDOT first began looking into road improvements for that segment because the two previously approved subdivisions wanted to place entrances on High House Road, which would require new median openings.

“DOT looked at their proposal and didn’t feel comfortable with it,” Jensen said.

That’s when NCDOT officials began looking into other options to mitigate traffic impacts on High House. They are now considering a paired U-Turn intersection, which would allow only U-Turns at two intersections within close proximity of one another.

This would require some residents to make a right in and right out of their neighborhoods. But NCDOT is looking into other options as well.

“We’ve expressed to them we wanted to make sure we kind of look at this holistically, whatever solution they come up with,” Jensen said.

The new developments can’t get the proper permits to build entrances on High House until they receive NCDOT approval.

In the meantime, neighbors will continue to keep discussions going with nearby residents regarding possible solutions. A community meeting is expected to be held soon, but no date has been set.

Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608, @KTrogdon