Construction has begun on a new road that will make it easier to go between N.C. State University’s main campus and its Centennial Campus.
The road is actually the extension of two streets – Pullen Road and Bilyeu Street, which will meet at a new roundabout about halfway between Western Boulevard and Centennial Parkway. The extensions will provide an alternative entrance to the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral and a new access point for Pullen Park Terrace, the 32-home neighborhood also known as Kirby-Bilyeu, next to Dorothea Dix Park.
City and university officials hope the new connection will ease congestion at the intersection of Western Boulevard and Avent Ferry Road, which now handles nearly all the traffic between the university's two big campuses. When the road opens sometime next fall, some Wolfline buses will use it instead of Avent Ferry, said Mike Kennon, the assistant transportation director for NCSU.
“We do plan to revise a couple of the express routes to use Pullen Road extension,” Kennon wrote in an email. “These routes are primarily designed to move students quickly between main campus and Centennial.”
The new road is a joint project between the university, the city and the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, which all have a stake in it. The road is expected to cost about $3.8 million, with the city putting in half and the university and diocese each chipping in 25 percent.
The project will change the way Pullen Park Terrace residents get in and out of their neighborhood. Now most use Bilyeu Street, which meets Western Boulevard at a sharp angle at the bottom of a hill.
But the extension of Bilyeu to Centennial Parkway promised to bring much more traffic through the neighborhood, and earlier this year residents agreed that it made sense to close Bilyeu at Western, said Eric Lamb, the city’s transportation planning manager.
“We don’t normally advocate for terminating streets,” Lamb said. “But it really made more sense given the scale of the streets and the nature of that switchback. We didn’t think that was appropriate for the higher level of traffic that will be created by this connection.”
Lamb said that in the 1960s the city’s road plan called for extending Pullen Road south to meet what would become Interstate 40. But as NCSU drew up plans for Centennial Campus, the city abandoned that idea in the 1980s, he said.
The new road will also provide a connection to 130 acres that NCSU controls on the east side of Centennial Parkway, adjacent to Dix Park, called the Spring Hill District. Jeff Bandini, the associate vice chancellor for real estate and development, says the university has no specific plans now to develop Spring Hill.