Midtown Raleigh News

Raleigh nears vote on Capital Boulevard makeover plan

After two years of preparation, the city is putting the final touches on a wide-ranging plan to revamp Capital Boulevard.

The urban makeover will bring a green median and network of greenways and parallel streets to serve cyclists and pedestrians.

Over the next five to 10 years, the city envisions stores, restaurants and shops bringing new life to rundown areas. Parks and open space planned in designated low-lying areas would offer refuge to walkers and cyclists.

Included in the city’s 65-page plan are maps showing possible locations of future parks, greenways and street improvements.

The blueprint reflects Raleigh’s quest to move toward an urban identity and encourage redevelopment that caters to walkers, cyclists and transit riders.

The City Council will hold a review at its regular meeting Tuesday. The council could vote on the plan or refer it to a committee for a final round of study.

The public projects, which total about $60 million, will be completed in phases with local, state and federal dollars available for everything from stream restoration to highway bridge replacement.

No money is set aside in the city’s proposed budget. Some projects could be funded through future parks and transportation bonds, city officials said.

Cleaning up pollution

High on the priority list is a cleanup of Pigeon House Branch, the city’s most polluted water body, said Councilman Randy Stagner, who represents areas along Capital Boulevard in North Raleigh.

A plan to remodel the corridor is “long overdue,” said Stagner, who noted the city has begun buying flood-prone properties along the boulevard to convert to open space.

One example is the shuttered AMF Capital Lanes bowling alley near the Beltline. Raleigh will soon close on a deal to acquire the land, which is valued at $680,000. The site will become a place for floodwaters to go, city officials said.

Spiffing up the corridor’s appearance is a major focus.

“It’s going to be a more dignified view of our city,” Stagner said. “Right now, you can describe it in a lot of different ways, but dignified isn’t one of them.”

A new bridge

In 2016, the state plans to replace the aging Capital Boulevard bridge over Peace Street, built in the 1950s and now considered obsolete.

A group of downtown residents urged the city and state to remove the bridge in favor of a four-way intersection with a stoplight.

The group, called Link Peace Street, wants to create an urban district that appeals to pedestrians, cyclists, shoppers and, eventually, passengers on a future light-rail line.

But the bridge must remain, transportation officials say. With 50,000 cars per day in each direction, a stoplight would cause too many backups.

The interchange could be modernized to produce a friendly layout for walkers and cyclists, said Ken Bowers, a deputy planning director leading the Capital Boulevard makeover.

“We think this bridge, with a (new) design for the ramps, is going to provide an easier to cross intersection than a very large intersection where there would be long waits,” Bowers said.