2017 Transportation Bond Includes Downtown Projects

Map of projects as part of 2017 bond proposal.

Map of projects as part of 2017 bond proposal. Click for larger.

There’s an election coming up and on the ballot for Raleigh residents will be a transportation bond which will include money for upcoming projects around the city and in the downtown area. Early voting has already started but you’ll get your chance to nay or aye this one on October 10.

You can dive into all the details about the $206.7 million package here. The map above shows the location of projects with two being in downtown Raleigh.

Blount/Person Two-Way Conversion

The bond would help direct $6.1 million towards converting Blount and Person to two-way streets. This is probably a result of the work that took place a few years ago, also a result of a transportation bond approved in 2013. I went into great detail on this project in this post.

Rendering of a two-way Blount and Person Street

I’m curious to know what the traffic coming off the Hammond Road I-40 exit would be like when Blount and Person are converted to two-way. The theory goes that two roads would absorb the traffic rather than funneling it all down one resulting in improved flow and lower speeds. The bike lanes would also be welcomed in creating easier routes on the east side of downtown.

West Street Extension South

A portion of this funding would allow the City to proceed with the design of the proposed West Street Extension under the NC Railroad Corridor between Martin Street and Cabarrus Street, which provides a critical connection to the upcoming Raleigh Union Station. The remaining funding would allow the City to provide a local match in order to pursue federal grant funding for the project.

As the description states, the bond money would move the ball along but not fully deliver. The West Street extension has been discussed in the past as well. (also here)

This is an interesting connection, joining West Street to West Street, that could change the dynamic of the warehouse district. Union Station and The Dillon are already going to have quite the impact so we’ll know over the next few years if the West Street extension will ease off the pressures of a crowded downtown corner.

I call it a corner cause the warehouse district really is the corner of downtown, strangled off by the railroad tracks where streets just end.

Go Vote

I think Raleigh has a strong history of approving transportation bonds but the question out there is the appetite for more debt after approving an increase of the sales tax for transit during the 2016 election.

Either way, voice your opinion on October 10. Here’s a sample ballot for this bond referendum.

Sample Ballot of 2017 Transportation Bond

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  1. I don’t know…I live on the edge of downtown and use the streets daily, and two-way conversion seems like the wrong plan for Blount/Person. The one-way “diet” configuration gets things done efficiently. Most days I ride a bike to and from work, and use the car for trips in the afternoon. I love the idea of bike lanes on these roads (currently I just use Bloodworth to get north/south because it’s low-traffic), but I have trouble justifying two bike lanes each on both streets, plus a center lane for turning, plus reconfiguring lights to provide turn arrows in each direction at each intersection…I know the traffic study showed that the intersections weren’t that congested, but now we’re going to eliminate two travel lanes and double the number of potential turns at every intersection on both roads at once, possibly creating a problem where one doesn’t currently exist. I don’t see that being a positive change.

    Additionally I really struggle to see what the plan is at Hammond and Hoke for highway traffic. I know the theme is to encourage people to move around within downtown and not just get in and get out, and that’s great but it doesn’t really reflect reality. We’re not going to change the fact that 90+% of all the people using downtown are going to come in and leave each time, no matter how many more residential projects go up in the near future. Downtown is a destination, and making it more difficult to get in and out doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    Mark me down as a skeptic. Probably won’t change my vote on the transportation bond (we’re so behind on infrastructure spending already) but I’d be much more supportive of the one-way diet plan than the two-way conversion.

  2. SSW Raleigh resident gripe: Crazy that they’ve marked $10m+ for Carolina Pines Ave but nothing for Lake Wheeler gateway into downtown from Tryon. Lake Wheeler desperately needs redesign with sidewalks/bike lanes into downtown, which I know is complicated by Dix Park, narrow right of way, and Norfolk Southern RR crossing, but man it needs doing because lots of people bike on L Wheeler in the traffic lane including me.

    Regarding transit, I can’t even take a bus directly downtown from Lake Wheeler – there is no GoRaleigh service that crosses that bridge. I would have to take 7L and transfer onto the 7 at Saunders, which is 45 minutes to make the 3 mile trip into DT.

    Matthew I agree with your sentiment about Two-way conversion of Person/Blount. I just can’t imagine the amount of disruption that would cause downtown during the 2 years of construction it would require I’m guessing, and then additional turn options at all those intersections. It’s easy enough to hop on blount if needing to go south, or hop on Person or Wilmington if needing to go north.

  3. It’s a shame that the West St. connector couldn’t have happened at the same time as Union Station. Having Union Station and West open at the same time would have been really impactful to the development of SW DT. As it stands, delay in the connection will likely tip the development balance to points north of Union Station due to access. Though SW DT is seeing activity, it’s true potential is still probably a decade away from reality.

  4. @Matthew – Thanks for your thoughts. I enjoyed your write-up.

    I like to think of these two-way conversions as “righting” an egregious wrong committed long ago. Planning at the time was car-centric and, since downtown at the time was not the place where the politically connected lived, little regard was given to the ill-effects such a scheme might have on established neighborhoods. Since we are talking the Blount/Person corridor, College Park immediately comes to mind. As many are well-aware drivers speed through that neighborhood to this day with little if any regard for the safely of the people living there. The same can be said of the Edenton/New Bern corridor. My home is in this immediate area and I am often shocked and incensed by the speed with which some drivers blow through the area.

    Speed limit signs definitely aren’t the answer. No, these road pairs were designed for the express purpose (pun intended) of getting people and their cars the hell in and out of Dodge as quickly as possible. They do a great job of this but little else. It’s been shown that two-way streets slow traffic and I think this configuration is very appropriate for residential areas and also those areas where small businesses have set up shop (such as North Person St).

    We do have to face reality when it comes to our current transportation needs but the calculus must be weighted fairly to include the well-being of people and the areas in which they live. No longer should thy Lord Automobile reign supreme. The reality argument hyper-focused on the automobile almost led to a freeway being plowed through Oakwood back in the 60’s. Wow!

    FWIW, I found this article on the merits/demerits of one-way pairs vs. two-way streets.


  5. I’m very much opposed to the conversion of Blount/Person. I live in a development sandwiched between the two and do not see how this would improve what I consider the fastest way in and out of downtown to the highway. I fear that I will personally vote no based on this. I do not understand the idea of cutting major arteries to downtown when we are looking at development projects that would need to move a lot of people in and out of downtown as efficiently as possible. You cannot force the transition from vehicular traffic to pedestrian traffic. And even nudging road projects towards the latter will happen more organically than anything. This will be a nightmare .

  6. “No longer should thy Lord Automobile reign supreme.”

    Yeah, good luck trying to get everybody to walk or bike everywhere. We don’t even have a grocery store yet. Plenty of people still drive into our out of downtown to work everyday. If you have the ability to ride your bike to work from home, good for you. There are still a lot of us who live downtown who do not and will not be working downtown for the foreseeable future and depend on “Lord Automobile” to do everything.

  7. FWIW I think the Blount/Person conversion would be better spent on Lake Wheeler upgrades & sidewalks before Dix transforms that area. Pullen Road extension to Centennial will open the area up and will start in the near future. WE react instead of being pro-active. I also feel the 12 million being pissed away on Moore Square is a waste and could have been done for under 1 million. I have seen the plans and the water features are nice but the homeless issue is not going away by cleaning it and providing a stage & Cafe space for events. That money would be better spent on bus shelters or low income housing. Great reading all the input and ideas presented.

  8. Meh I’m not too keen on the Blount/Person conversion and agree that the money could be better spent in other places. There needs to be a good pass-thru into downtown and Blount/Person serves that rather well. Trying to two-way all the main roads in the downtown core seems rather egregious.

  9. I’m actually very excited for some of the pedestrian improvements in North Raleigh neighborhoods. If we ever want to alter the character of the city to a more urban rather than suburban one we need to promote walk-ability in all neighborhoods. This will help make major transit plans in the future more successful. The Leesville Project, for example, if implemented correctly could lead to more walking to the shopping centers from the suburban neighborhoods around the area. Its prime for a urban retro-fit Ellen Durham-Jones style. Some of those neighborhoods are reaching 50+ years old and are highly historic relative to some of the post 2000’s development which is typical of some of the farther out neighborhoods. Putting a bus route up and down Leesville could be a transformative project so long as good sidewalks and bike infrastructure has already been developed. .

  10. I guess I don’t understand a lot of the complaints against the two way conversion. There are already 3 north-south 1-way pairs barreling through downtown. So there will still be two other pass thru’s going N-S through DT if Person/Blount is converted to 2ways. I dont think we need every single N-S street to be a 1 way and it would certainly be nice if one of these routes did prioritize some things other than cars

  11. I agree, let’s show Lake Wheeler some love.

    @D Mark and other conversion proponents:
    -Blount/Person streets have direct access to I-40 and Timber dr in Garner to the south, as well as Capital and Atlantic to the north. The current traffic pattern was laid out so that a freeway thru Oakwood would not be needed. Converting these streets to 2way would cause a traffic nightmare downtown, especially with the influx of new development to the east. College Park will not be any safer either, just less controlled. The traffic flow is not going to disappear, it has to go somewhere.

    -Wilmington/Salisbury dead ends at Peace in the North and dumps onto the already congested S. Saunders to the south with no access to the I-40. These are the streets that could benefit from a conversion to 2way. The corridor is not a major thoroughfare anymore and the businesses here could benefit from the traffic calming. 2way conversion here would also help out when there are festivals downtown and Fayetteville st becomes the great wall of Raleigh.

    Sadly, the worst areas in Raleigh for bad traffic are not addressed in this proposal, but that is not downtown related so I’ll keep that discussion elsewhere.

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