Introducing Link Peace Street, A Resident Backed Alternative For Capital Boulevard and Peace Street

Peace Street with Capital Boulevard bridge

There’s a new project that’s growing some legs in downtown Raleigh. Link Peace Street is a vision from Raleigh residents for a more walkable environment on Peace Street. It coincides with the Capital Boulevard Corridor Study and hopes to put another alternative onto the table that is currently not being considered. I’m helping out with the effort and the core focus of it revolves around creating a plan for an at-grade intersection at Capital Boulevard and Peace Street.

Over the next few days, more information will be put onto the vision website of Link Peace Street so I encourage readers to check out the site we’ve built and sign up for updates.

Link Peace Street revolves around three main goals,

  1. Economic development in a form that fits into downtown Raleigh.
  2. Strengthen the connections between neighborhoods.
  3. Deliver on the 2030 Comprehensive Plan.

The Capital Boulevard Corridor Study, taking public comments at this time, targets private investment in the area using several projects. Some of those include an expanded greenway, a park at the old Devereux Meadow site, and multiple tweaks to Capital Boulevard itself. We’ve mentioned here before that the state of North Carolina is going to replace the bridge over Peace Street within a few years. The study wants to piggyback on that project and is considering some alternative routes to getting on and off of Peace Street. You can read about those alternatives on the Peace Street Vision document in the sidebar on the city’s website. These ideas are what planners think will help spur private investment in the area.

All plans being considered so far include the new NCDOT designed bridge and Link Peace Street wants them to consider the ‘no bridge’ option. We feel that the upgrades to Capital Boulevard, outlined in the study document, only promote more speed and will continue keeping vehicles moving through the area rather than stopping at a destination. Peace Street is the northern border of downtown Raleigh but most people don’t see it that way as the built landscape is not meant for a downtown at all. It’s possible that an environment that balances pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles can promote development that is appropriate for downtown Raleigh and is a much better use of land.

With vehicles speeds kept the same and not increased, a walkable Peace Street will connect the neighborhoods rather than be an obstacle between them. In March, the Blount Street Commons project was asking the Raleigh City Council for a zoning change to allow for more density. At the same time, there is an apartment boom near Glenwood South. Both neighborhoods are so close yet feel much farther because of the uneasy walk down Peace Street in its current state.

It is a half mile walk from the Mellow Mushroom to Tyler’s Taproom yet so few people make that walk. In comparison, Fayetteville Street from one end to the other is a half mile. Peace Street may never have the towers and historic structures of Fayetteville Street but we think that we can atleast set up Peace Street for the same walkable experience. To have it, it starts with people and not vehicles.

The 2030 comprehensive plan specifies that this area is in the Core Business District category. It states:

This category applies to the Raleigh Central Business District, and is intended to enhance Downtown Raleigh as a vibrant mixed use urban center. The category recognizes the area’s role as the heart of the city, supporting a mix of high-intensity office, retail, housing, government, institutional, visitor-serving, cultural, and entertainment uses. Multiple zoning districts apply within the CBD, corresponding to the different character and vision for its various neighborhoods. The maximum residential density in this area would be 320 units per acre with densities tapering off towards edge areas adjacent to established residential neighborhoods, but not falling below 40 units per acre.

The Capital Boulevard study wants to widen lanes and help the flow of traffic. This does not fit with the description above and Link Peace Street feels that goes against the plan adopted just a few years ago.

How can we continue to do what we’ve been doing here in the corridor and expect different results?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

-Albert Einstein

We’re hoping to build support for the idea before the study is brought to the city council before the May 1st meeting.

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  1. I just had this thought the other day too! Why is it assumed that we NEED a bridge here? Or at Wade and Capital? Why not make these signalized intersections with street-fronted urban uses and encourage a more pedestrian environment. As long as we are ripping everything up, why go back to almost the same thing we have? Let’s use this opportunity to IMPROVE! While we’re at it, what about a Dupont Circle-style traffic circle at Capital and Wade that lets Capital thru traffic to pass underneath and all other turning traffic occurs in the circle.

    Capital Boulevard is only an ‘expressway’ from Lane Street (Days Inn) to Fenton Street (Chevy dealership). The rest of the corridor within the entire city both to the North and South it is a signalized Boulevard/Avenue. Why is this? Most likely it was created this way in the past to speed traffic through this un-utilized area. Since the plan now is to make these useable and active spaces, wouldn’t it make sense to signalize the avenue with cross streets and provide street usage here – rather than keeping with this very short ‘expressway’ or ‘super street’ that continues this isolation and discouragement of pedestrians within the ‘valley’ region.

  2. I continue going back and forth on whether to keep Capital as an expressway and upgrade other parts as well to limited access standards or to do something different (and more progressive) like converting it to an urban boulevard. The biggest part of my hesitance to move one way or the other is that while I’ve seen pluses and minuses of urban freeways, there aren’t many examples of urban boulevards (that work).

    One major plus about the Capital Blvd Freeway (and under utilization) is that it makes the center of town a lot more accessible. From the Beltline to Downtown is about 5 minutes driving which makes it quicker than going down New Bern or Poole Road from the east. The connections to Wade Ave and to Glenwood are also very important. All things that should be considered.

    That being said, I do support Link Peace Street and I think the DOT and the City of Raleigh should study other alternatives. There is enough knowledge base in this region to come up with something that is progressive and create a better situation for more than just cars.

  3. I don’t mind such an alternative being studied. But I think we can have both an expressway and a walkable solution. This proposal suggests its one or the other. It’s all about making the pedestrian pathways more accessible, inviting, and safe. This means bike-friendly wide sidewalks, lights, barriers, cleanliness, and maybe some public art along Peace Street through the Capital Blvd. AND the rail-ROW overpasses.


  4. I don’t think making this an at-grade intersection and extending the street grid (and therefore the McDowell/Dawson one way pair) up the Pigeon House Branch valley would turn out as great as proponents suggest. The valley (Actually, let’s call it a gulch due to its unfriendly character) is pretty narrow. There aren’t really any chances for additional human-scale connections to the neighborhoods on either side like Glenwood-Brooklyn, Mordecai, Pilot Mill Village, etc, of the valley since the railroads pretty much hem it in from either side. The only north-south streets we’d get are West, which the current plan has, plus McDowell and Dawson. And for those of you keeping track, McDowell and Dawson are not exactly magnets for pedestrian friendly development downtown thanks to the heavy traffic they carry. And they would carry even MORE traffic north of Peace.

    If you really want this to work as an at-grade intersection, you’d have to do something to take some of the traffic off of McDowell and Dawson north of Peace. The only thing I can think of that would achieve this is to extend Wade Avenue to connect with Halifax. Actually I think that would be a great idea regardless but I’m not sure the Pilot Mill neighborhood and Peace College would agree.

  5. orulz, I completely agree that Wade should be extended to Halifax. I was shocked that with all of the talk about “connectivity” in this plan, nothing along those lines was even on the table!

  6. I’m a little conflicted on this. While I like Doug’s proposal a few years ago to convert Capital Blvd in to a “grand avenue”, lined with low rise mixed-use, the truth is that something like that is at least 20 years out, maybe 40.

    If we are going to increase the supply of retail and housing by as much as it would take to execute the grand avenue plan, we should do it by improving the spaces that are already underused (Hillsborough St, Dawson, etc).

    If we aren’t going to do the grand avenue thing, I say KEEP DOWNTOWN ACCESS ALIVE. Given the historic cycles of things in this city, the downtown wave is only a few years from its downturn in hotness. It’s had a 20-year run, and the last thing we want to do is make it that much harder to access for people in North Raleigh. (their money has been VERY important to downtown revival).

    The City has already screwed up Hillsborough Street with the dangerous roundabouts, and Glenwood is essentially a 1-lane access to downtown given the pinch around Lilly’s. Raleigh already suffers from Malignant Trafficlightoma. We certainly don’t want one of our major arteries stymied with another light.

    So, because it is 2012, I am only in favor of rebuilding the bridge, but increasing its span to accommodate safer traffic and walking conditions. Should the area organically pick up and the grand avenue becomes a reasonable project, then drop the bridge and do the grand avenue right.

  7. Oh, yeah, I forgot to add my question to Leo on Twitter about this: Do you really think that NC’s DOT would be up to “new” and “inventive” thinking on their interchange? The NCDOT is about the most boring and uncreative group of people I’ve ever encountered.

    Either the city planners fear this group or they know the stark reality (that NCDOT won’t budge on any new plans). They seemed to almost shutter at the idea of bringing light rail at grade across the Dawson/McDowell pair.

    To be honest, I wish we had more grade separated intersections throughout Raleigh. Intersections like Peace/Capital, Wade/Glenwood, Oberlin/Wade are what Greensboro has tons of, and it is very easy to move throughout that city (outside of Battleground). I wish they had used bridges at most of the Lynn/Spring Forest intersections.

  8. Back in the 60s and 70s when things like this were getting built, Greensboro got its arterial grade separations, and Raleigh got the Beltline. I, for one, think we got the better deal.

    Greensboro is now working on its first beltline while Raleigh works on its second.

  9. “The City has already screwed up Hillsborough Street with the dangerous roundabouts”

    I don’t understand statements like this. How hard is it to use a roundabout? Look left as you approach and if there is nobody coming, then go. If there is then yield. It’s not a hard concept but so many people can’t grasp their head around it. If you miss your out, it’s a damn circle so just go around again.

    It was worse before when it was signaled and you had to wait forever. Traffic would back up down Hillsborough and Pullen all the time.

  10. DPK: I stopped reading Dana’s comment when he predicted that “the downtown wave is only a few years from its downturn in hotness” so I had to go back and see the part about roundabouts.

    His statements are as comical as they are inaccurate. It’s borderline delusional. His pitch is basically that we should keep the bridge because without it, North Raleigh residents won’t come downtown and in turn, downtown will decay.

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