Midtown Raleigh News

Raleigh OKs road diet for Hillsborough Street

With neighbors, traffic engineers and cycling advocates voicing differing priorities for a plan to revamp the layout of Hillsborough Street near the YMCA, the City Council reached a compromise Tuesday intended to placate all sides.

The street will be reduced to one travel lane in each direction with a center turn lane – a change to create space for bike lanes on both sides and on-street parking in front of the YMCA.

“This little section of road is a microcosm of our attitudes about where our city is going,” Councilman Russ Stephenson said after the 8-0 decision.

“This is a continuation of saying, let’s not necessarily put commuters trying to get through a section of town quickly at the top of the list. There are many very legitimate users for the street.”

The decision came after a lengthy debate over how to balance neighborhood concerns with the need to accommodate cars.

Cameron Park neighborhood leaders urged the city to install on-street parking on both sides to narrow the wide expanse of roadway and slow vehicles.

That request did not succeed, but one side of parking is still an improvement, said Bob Mosher, president of the Cameron Park neighborhood association.

“This is a better solution than the current situation, which has become sort of a speedway,” he said.

Currently, the section of Hillsborough Street near the YMCA has five travel lanes.

Seeking to deliver on the neighborhood’s wishes, Councilman Thomas Crowder floated a proposal to reduce the street to two lanes with no center turn lane. But traffic planners warned the approach would lead to long backups.

Hillsborough Street carries 17,000 to 18,000 cars a day in the section under review. That’s about 5,000 more cars than on streets typically targeted for such revamping.

Cyclists argued the focus should be on adding bike lanes to complete the link between downtown and N.C. State University.

“Unless cyclists stand up and say, this is what we want, we usually are not taken into account,” said Timur Ender, a cycling advocate and N.C. State University graduate. “This is Raleigh’s main street. We wanted to make sure it was done right.”

The work represents another phase of renovations along Hillsborough Street, which two years ago received a $10 million makeover in front of the university.

In the section near the YMCA, the city plans a larger streetscaping project in 2015 or 2016 that could bring wide sidewalks, medians and raised crosswalks.

Until then, the revamped layout will help, said Councilman Bonner Gaylord.

“It’s a very civically involved area, which is great,” said Gaylord. “It took a while to work out. I think it’s the best scenario given the constraints.”