Cary News

Morrisville approves Wilson Road connection, agrees to federal grant terms

After weeks of discussing two road-related items with potential long-term traffic impacts in Morrisville, the Town Council took action on both of them last week.

On Aug. 23, council members voted 5-1 to approve a rezoning petition that would allow for 31 new homes on about 7 acres of land along Wilson Road. But several council members said they were less excited about the new homes than the developer’s offer to bring sewer service to the area and connect Wilson Road to Cary Parkway, allowing easier access to the road for drivers who otherwise would go south to Chapel Hill Road to access its intersection with Cary Parkway.

Residents spoke at the meeting about the poor condition of wells and groundwater in the area, asking that the council approve the rezoning petition that would finally give them access to Morrisville utilities.

National builder CalAtlantic Homes is the land’s prospective developer.

The connection of Wilson Road and Cary Parkway is attractive to town officials, who have said it could relieve some pressure from right-turn lanes along Chapel Hill Road. But they also acknowledge cut-through traffic could become an issue.

Mayor pro tem Steve Rao asked about the possibility of installing traffic-calming devices, such as speed bumps, which he was told would have to be requested by affected residents along Wilson Road and approved by town staff.

Traffic engineer Rich Cappola said the North Carolina Department of Transportation is likely to approve the connection, but the council’s approval included new language added at the meeting that allows the council to revert the land’s zoning back to a lower density if the NCDOT nixes the cut-through or CalAtlantic fails to secure the necessary easements from property owners near Cary Parkway.

Grant application

The council also approved the terms of its application for federal grant money that would fund the majority of the $10.8 million plan to widen Morrisville Carpenter Road.

Council members approved a relatively conservative application that increases the town’s spending share to 30 percent and includes medians in the proposed design. Both of those features – the increased town contribution and the improved safety record of median-divided roads – give the town a better chance of getting the grant money, transportation planner Benjamin Howell told the council.

Councilwoman Liz Johnson said she would rather have applied at a 20 percent match, the minimum accepted by the grant program, to save the town money on the project. But she said safety is a bigger priority for her, even though a median will increase the cost of the project by about $300,000.

“Without the median, I would have voted against this,” Johnson said. “That’s how important safety is to me. I’m not as happy with the 30 percent match – I’m not a gambler, but I was willing to roll the dice at 20 percent.”

The 30 percent figure comes to about $2 million in construction costs for the town, if it is awarded the grant.

In other business

▪ The council participated in a work session led by traffic consultants Kimley-Horn, beginning the process of updating the town’s long-term transportation plan, which was last revised in 2009. The exercises dealt mainly with determining the council members’ transportation priorities. Improving traffic appeared to be chief among council members’ concerns.

▪ Town staff reported that all bids for the first phase of the McCrimmon Parkway extension project had come in above the town’s budget. But Town Manager Martha Paige told the council she and her staff could negotiate the lowest bid down by several hundred thousand dollars, and the council gave her permission to do so.

Paige said that would be achieved by eliminating an expensive asphalt reclamation process from the contract and tackling that separately. Doing so would reduce the lowest bid of $5.18 million to $4.4 and $4.6 million.

Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan