Wake County

Plans for bridge replacements near downtown Raleigh take shape

Traffic flows under the Wade Avenue bridge over Capital Boulevard seen looking south from the Fairview Road bridge in Raleigh on Wednesday. The Wade Avenue bridge will be replaced with a wider, higher and longer structure, and it will be be moved slightly to the northeast.
Traffic flows under the Wade Avenue bridge over Capital Boulevard seen looking south from the Fairview Road bridge in Raleigh on Wednesday. The Wade Avenue bridge will be replaced with a wider, higher and longer structure, and it will be be moved slightly to the northeast. cseward@newsobserver.com

Plans are taking shape for replacing bridges at Peace Street and Wade Avenue that intersect with Capital Boulevard, projects that will update the northern gateway into downtown Raleigh.

Next summer, the state Department of Transportation will begin replacing the bridges, potentially snarling traffic until 2019.

City Council members got their first glimpse at what the new bridges could look like during a meeting Wednesday.

The Capital Boulevard bridge over Peace Street will be reconfigured and will extend slightly farther to the north. New ramps will carry traffic between the two roads. The bridge will include sidewalks and a grass median.

The new bridge that carries westbound traffic from Capital Boulevard to Wade Avenue and northbound traffic from Wade Avenue to Capital will be wider, higher and longer than the existing bridge, and it will be moved slightly to the northeast.

DOT estimates the bridges will cost up to $74.6 million. While the state will cover most of the cost, Raleigh could pay about $13 million.

The city can also choose to pitch in extra money for special design elements.

Eric Lamb, a transportation planner for Raleigh, presented aesthetic options Wednesday that included ornate railings, columns, lighting and room for public art.

Council member Bonner Gaylord suggested a $1.6 million upgrade that included lights and decorative touches.

“I think we need to make (the bridges) look like we want people to come in our front door,” he said.

Council member Russ Stephenson, who is an architect, said he thought some of the plans seemed “grandiose,” and he preferred a cleaner design.

The bridge replacements are among the largest projects in the city’s 10-year downtown plan, which the council approved last month.

As part of the plan, Raleigh wants to eventually build a park – called Devereaux Meadows Park – on city-owned property near the interchange of Capital Boulevard and Peace Street. The lot currently houses city vehicles.

The planning process for that park hasn’t started, Lamb said.

The new Capital Boulevard bridge will affect some businesses on Peace Street, including Finch’s Family Restaurant, a diner that opened in the 1940s.

Peggy Jin, who has owned Finch’s for 25 years, said she knew it was a possibility that the restaurant would have to be torn down.

“We’ll try to open somewhere else,” Jin said. “Right now, we don’t know.”

Peace Camera, near Finch’s, likely won’t be affected by the plans. But manager Steve Zaslow said he’s unsure how a new street configuration would affect business.

“I don’t know if it’s good or bad,” he said. “I don’t know how the flow of Peace Street is going to happen.”

The bridge replacements will take three years to complete, Lamb said, and the city is preparing for the effects on traffic.

Construction on Wade Avenue will begin next summer, and construction on Capital Boulevard will begin in 2017.

A northbound lane on Capital Boulevard from Peace Street to Wade Avenue will be closed for a year, Lamb said. On some nights and weekends, all lanes in that stretch of Capital Boulevard will be closed.

The city will use Peace, Blount and Person streets and Wake Forest Road as detours during those times.

The ramps from Fairview Road onto Capital Boulevard might also have temporary closures, Lamb said.

Mechelle Hankerson: 919-829-4802, @mechelleh

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