Midtown Raleigh News

Pedestrian tunnel would link Carter-Finley Stadium, fairgrounds

For tens of thousands of people making their way to Wolfpack football games and the State Fair, the walk across Trinity Road is a jumble of big crowds, heavy traffic and state troopers trying to keep some semblance of order.

DOT officials see a way to ease the congestion: a pedestrian tunnel that would offer a car-free walking route between the fairgrounds and Carter-Finley Stadium.

Much more than a narrow passageway, the tunnel envisioned under Trinity Road would boast 37-foot-wide entrances, brick pavers and substantial lighting and landscaping, a preliminary DOT concept shows.

The idea of a tunnel is not new. But the prospect has been revived as the fairgrounds draws bigger crowds and PNC Arena hosts the Carolina Hurricanes, N.C. State basketball and dozens of concerts and events.

Four million people per year visit the fairgrounds. PNC Arena draws another 1.5 million.

“It’s definitely got a little momentum behind it,” said Joey Hopkins, a DOT district engineer and Wolfpack season ticket holder. “From a safety standpoint, it makes good sense.”

The biggest obstacle? Finding money for the project.

With the state budget strapped, the undertaking would depend on contributions from the nearby venues, DOT officials said. Sponsorships and naming rights could also be options. Costs have not yet been determined.

The Centennial Authority, which manages PNC Arena, has not discussed the project but generally supports pedestrian upgrades, said member Jessie Taliaferro.

“Anything that can be done to make the journey safer, we would want to see that happen,” she said.

The state brought in Kimley Horn to produce an initial concept. Five years ago, the Raleigh design firm renovated N.C. State’s Free Expression Tunnel, which goes under the railroad tracks on campus.

State officials plans to spend the next few months collecting public input before deciding whether to move forward with more detailed planning.

The tunnel would fit well with the vision for a walkable area, said Dr. Stuart Levin, an advocate for the city’s Blue Ridge Road corridor initiative.

The city envisions shops, offices and residences as part of a new generation of urban-oriented development for West Raleigh.