Midtown Raleigh News

West Raleigh overpass will get a revamp

The state will remove a 1960s-era overpass at Hillsborough Street and Western Boulevard outside the Beltline, part of an effort to modernize a tangle of highways dubbed the “spaghetti bowl.”

It’s the latest incarnation of a trend in highway design called complete streets, an approach intended to accommodate more uses than just auto traffic.

The revamp will result in a street-level intersection that offers a friendlier layout for buses, cyclists and pedestrians, Raleigh transportation planners say.

The state built the overpass at a time when superhighways sliced through communities and created urban wasteland under the big concrete pillars.

“It’s just an old way of thinking about highway design,” said Eric Lamb, the city’s transportation planning manager. “After we looked at the map, we determined that it (the overpass) really wasn’t necessary.

“We’re using this opportunity to make what we feel is a very positive investment.”

Construction is expected to begin in late November and will take until summer 2014, according to city and state planning documents.

A future urban village

The redesign is intended, in part, to prepare for the arrival of light rail. A transit station planned on Jones Franklin Road would be a key stop on the route from downtown Raleigh to Cary.

Plans call for dense urban villages around most of the stations, based on the idea that people will ride the train if they can live, work and eat within walking distance.

The area around the Asbury Village community should become a transit hub for West Raleigh, according to a long-term development blueprint approved by the City Council in December. The district should include centrally located open space and easy connections to parks and greenways.

“I really see this as a fabulous opportunity for a mixed-use village with shopping and dining,” said City Councilman Thomas Crowder. “This (plan) is a major move in making the transformation to a more pedestrian-oriented environment.”

The city has previously done work on nearby Buck Jones Road, a popular west Raleigh corridor that carries traffic toward Cary. The corridor is busy with pedestrians, two bus lines and cars – about 8,500 daily. Many commuters use it as a shortcut to get to Interstate 40.

Fixing ‘spaghetti bowl’

The interchange at Western Boulevard and Hillsborough Street is a trouble spot for drivers – one that Joey Hopkins remembers from his early days in Raleigh in the 1980s. Hopkins is now a division engineer for the DOT.

“You’d get out there and you’re like, ‘which way do I go?’ ” he said. “It takes a while to get used to. This is a better combination for everybody.”

Originally, the state planned to demolish and replace the bridge. But Raleigh in 2009 asked the DOT to hold off while the city studied how to spur redevelopment in the Jones Franklin Road area.

The new approach increased the city’s share from $355,000 to $545,000 for the project, which carries a total cost of $2.6 million. Raleigh will be responsible for maintaining the sidewalk and a multi-use path.