The state DOT is close to settling on plans to redesign a pair of obsolete Capital Boulevard interchanges, and the public has five days left to give comments on the possible scenarios.
The aging, narrow bridges at Peace Street and Wade Avenue, each built more than 50 years ago, will be replaced in 2016 as part of a DOT project that officials hope will modernize Raleighs northern entrance into downtown.
By early next year, DOT planners expect to pick one of two alternatives for the Peace Street bridge, and one of four for the Wade Avenue bridge, after receiving public comment through Monday.
DOT says the half-cloverleaf interchange at Peace and the trumpet-shaped ramps at Wade could be replaced with bigger but similar structures for an estimated $40.4 million.
However, Raleigh city planners have a more ambitious vision in mind: to design the new interchanges with modern amenities to improve safety for walkers and cyclists, and also support transit-friendly economic development.
A square loop option for Peace Street would send drivers on a loop along new paths using Johnson and Harrington streets on the west side of Capital. New streets would be constructed to form a similar loop east of Capital and south of Peace.
Two so-called diamond options for Wade Avenue would create a long, straight exit ramp for northbound Capital drivers, having them stop at a traffic signal before turning left onto the Wade bridge.
The new interchange options could push the cost as high as $74.6 million and could force the relocation of as many as 29 businesses.
Which version gets built will depend partly on how much the city agrees to spend. The City Council is mulling a transportation bond referendum, possibly by next fall, that could set aside money for road improvements.
Tony Houser, a project design engineer for the DOT, said the agency heard from many people who asked for a safe bicycle route between downtown and Five Points, a neighborhood just west of Capital Boulevard. That goal could be accomplished with an extension of West Street, which runs parallel to Capital.
The speed limit on Capital south of Wade Avenue will likely be lowered to 35 mph, with an 18- to 20-foot green median installed in the center of the highway to replace the current concrete barrier, Houser said.
There are driveways everywhere on that road, he said. Thats not normal for a road that has 60,000 cars per day. Wed love to address that (with safer conditions).
The states Capital Boulevard project schedule calls for right of way acquisition in 2015, with construction starting in 2016.
Construction could take more than two years, depending on which option is chosen. City and state officials warn of a long period of inconvenience for commuter and business traffic.
Capital Boulevard will be permanently realigned at Peace Street with the curving lanes moved about 10 feet farther west to free up enough room to build a new interchange without having to shut down all traffic on Capital.
Staff writer Bruce Siceloff contributed to this story.