Breaking Apart The Wishbone Intersection At Peace Street

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The intersection of Peace, Wilmington, Halifax, and Salisbury.

Talks, visions, and plans for lots of places in downtown Raleigh exist if you know where to look. Solving problems like traffic congestion or providing new amenities for pedestrians and bicyclists are driving factors for new plans. The intersection on Peace Street with Wilmington, Salisbury, and Halifax Streets is being looked at and I thought it might be fun to go over some points that I see in the Peace Street Visioning Study, a sub-topic in the Capital Boulevard Corridor Study.

No plans are final and the report mainly discusses topics for future exploring. One highlight mentions:

The Wilmington/Halifax/Peace Street intersection represents a second opportunity to improve traffic flow and reduce congestion. A two-lane roundabout is recommended for feasibility analysis by the City transportation engineers. This intersection continues to be a bottleneck which may be improved with more conventional traffic engineering solutions. However, there is some prospect that a two lane extended roundabout might provide free-flowing traffic while establishing a signature open space at this important gateway into the state government center and downtown. The roundabout would extend south in to the Wilmington Salisbury loop, with the roadway geometry offset to the south.

Here’s a screenshot of a map of that section and what it might look like from a conceptual level.

Peace Street Visioning Study, intersection of Halifax, Wilmington, and Peace Streets.

Seems like Raleighites either love or hate these larger roundabouts. It will be interesting to see the analysis and if the plan has merit.

The civic space within the center of the roundabout has potential but I question whether pedestrians will use it. Could an active public space exist within a busy roundabout of this small size?

I’d like to see another plan for this area, one Raleigh has already had, and that is to return the streets to their original configuration. The wishbone piece of the intersection could be removed and Wilmington and Salisbury Streets can be straightened out up to Peace. A map of Raleigh in 1914 shows this configuration including Halifax Street making it’s way up to Union Square as it has always been before the state government complex was built. (yay, urban renewal?)

It’s possible that this idea takes a busy intersection and splits it into two smaller ones. Here’s a mock up in Google Maps of what it could look like.

View Peace/Salisbury/Wilmington Intersection Idea in a larger map

Current properties in the map, shown in blue, are the AIA NC building and a Department of Administration building. In orange, you can see the returned street extensions and the green covers the wishbone piece of the current intersection. I also highlighted two service entrances in purple that are needed for the government complex.

The new green space is wide open in terms of future uses. Possibilities for it are new mixed-use developments, completely open green space, or a balance of the two. If a civic plaza is desired, the complete road removals would allow for more space.

In terms of traffic flow, I’m also curious what would happen if Salisbury Street were changed to a two-way street. With it connecting directly into Seaboard Station Avenue, bicycles and vehicles would have a direct connection from the core downtown to Seaboard Station.

There is also a really great view looking north at Seaboard Station that anyone driving, pedaling, or walking on Salisbury would feel more welcomed to a different downtown district. If you notice on a map, Vaughn Court is the current “extension” of Salisbury Street. Here’s a view looking north from that street. Click for a larger view.

Seaboard Station entrance from Vaughn Court

I feel that this should become a “main entrance” to Seaboard Station in more of a way that it is today. With a two-way Salisbury Street, there could be better connections from Seaboard Station to downtown. You also get the visual bonus in that drivers and pedestrians can see their destination a few blocks away. Currently, you have trees and parts of the government center parking deck in front of you.

Looking North on Salisbury Street.

Wilmington Street already has a great view with the William Peace University main building front and center to traffic. An extension to the road could make the new intersection of Wilmington and Peace a more interesting place, brought about with any future developments that come from the Blount Street Commons project.

View of William Peace University down Wilmington Street.

With more development coming, an improved road network may make for more successful redevelopment in this area and who knows, maybe the government district could begin to grow some life during the off hours.

Click on the image below for a gallery of more images of the area.

View of the AIA NC building and William Peace University main building from Wilmington Street.

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  1. I like this plan! I can imagine a mid-rise mixed-use development from Blount Street Commons fitting in well at the corner of [new] Wilmington & Peace. Any ground floor retail would stretch the Seaboard district by a few blocks.

    I’d like to see the [new] Salisbury & Peace intersection have at least 3 of the corners redeveloped to mid-rise (6-10 floors)/mixed-use, and then a high-rise (15+ floors) development at the Peace St Light Rail Station.

    It seems the one drawback of this plan is how it affects the Halifax St traffic – creates an additional 2 turns. But doesn’t seem like a dealbreaker to me and something that can be accounted for with well-planned signal timing.

  2. Your configuration makes a lot more sense in my mind. The right of way is already dedicated for Vaugn Ct. The Wilmington St. stub isn’t dedicated and is owned both a church and Blunt Street Commons. Still seems very doable though.

    I wonder if this idea can be forwarded to the City of Raleigh Planning Department, Town Council members, and/or Planning Commission members…

    On Twitter: @Squirrelchat

  3. Leo,

    I like your idea. Open the vista to Seaboard and develop land with Urban feel. Great location for office buildings with ground retail, high rise apartments, can even sell some land to colleges for high rise dorm rooms. At a minimum, this area should be developed around Seaboard Station (long over due Peace Street needs to be cleaned up and extend downtown day and night life (also a good connector to Glenwood South)
    Both those streets should be two way. There should be no one way streets in downtown Raleigh (if at all possible)

  4. After the bad experience on Hillsborough Street, you won’t see the City proposed another two-lane roundabout anytime soon.

  5. I’m honestly still hung up on the D5 route for light rail. I don’t think all the possibilities to make it work were quite explored adequately.

    D5 depends on some sort of a wishbone (though I suppose it could be designed as a light rail wishbone with the streets going straight.

    Keeping the street wishbone would be more important if Halifax actually went anywhere (read: connection to Wade) but it doesn’t so probably we can do without it.

  6. Speaking of roundabouts and the one on Hillsborough Street. I have been through there many times (NO ISSUES). If you know how to drive and you know what your doing, it’s idiot proof. People who consistantly have problems in a roundabout are pathetic. Going from two lanes to one, what a waste of taxpayers dollars and a HUGE mistake, all because people are idiots on the road. NC DOT (what a clueless group) needs to leave it two lanes.

  7. It’s definitely worth looking into. An added bonus would be that it could help calm traffic on Halifax Street. It needs some help or better yet, speed limit enforcement. When Raleigh Charter High is in session, students and parents fly down that road as if it was a suburban highway!

  8. Roundabouts are great for increasing traffic flow, but not necessarily for cyclists or pedestrians. For cyclists, even with proper bike facilities installed in the design it’s not perfect, and without them you are basically forced to dismount and use the crosswalks unless you want to take your life in your hands. For pedestrians, crossing distances become exaggerated because you have to walk further out of your way to get to the crosswalks. It’s adding convenience for motorists at the expense of pedestrians, which is not what we should want in an urban environment. Furthermore, you have a piece of infrastructure that in busy times has automobile traffic constantly flowing in and out of it, meaning if you are a pedestrian trying to cross the street, it can be harrowing. You have to hope that someone will stop for you, which they usually don’t as they are accelerating out of the roundabout. There are a variety of devices and design elements that can be used to mitigate these concerns, but I am still skeptical of building roundabouts in areas where we want people to walk and bike. The one thing that you can say about these potential conflicts, however, is that designed properly, a roundabout should have such low speeds on entry and exit that any pedestrian collisions will only result in injury and not death. So at least it has that going for it.

    I like that they are considering an elevated cycle track for Peace Street. That is pretty exciting as Raleigh doesn’t have any facilities of that quality currently. It seems like a good plan overall, but I do worry that a roundabout isn’t consistent with the goals stated in the plan.

  9. Makes so much sense to revert back to two way street for both Salisbury and Wilmington. Let’s take that energy a look at the polar opposite end of town to this example intersection. A great place for a large traffic circle and a public, pedestrian friendly space in the middle MLK/Western at Wilmington and Salisbury. Now that’s a gateway into town worth fixing. Slim down the lanes on MLK/Western and Wilmington from the south and maintain only two lanes in both directions. We eliminate all the freaking turning lanes and broaden the median to bulk up the boulevard feel. Sure it will remain a busy intersection but it is an area that desperately needs attention. Imagine a landscaped circle instead of a sea of asphalt the size of a Raleigh city block. Wilmington crests the bridge over the tracks to come to a smoother more pleasant transition at a really busy boulevard. Any thoughts.

  10. Makes you wonder why the changed the intersection to the current configuration in the first place.

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