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The Daily Tar Heel

Road construction heats up in summer

Fresh asphalt and hot, sunny days don’t normally mix — but for road construction projects around Chapel Hill, they often become the best option.

The town of Chapel Hill, UNC and the N.C. Department of Transportation have worked on a number of improvements to roads around the town and University this summer.

Ernie Rogers, a traffic engineering technician for the town, said all three entities try to limit most road work to summer months because of safety concerns.

“There’s much reduced volume in regards to pedestrian traffic and motorists,” he said.

Rogers said they encouraged groups with high-impact construction to have it finished by Aug. 15.

Amanda Perry, a communications officer for NCDOT, said in an email that the department currently has resurfacing projects on Manning Drive and South Columbia Street.

“We have scheduled as much of the work as possible to occur in the summer months in an effort to minimize the impact to students at UNC,” Perry said in an email.

Perry said the state was also widening South Columbia Street to three lanes and adding sidewalks and bike lanes. The project should be completed next summer, she said, weather permitting.

Rogers said the other ongoing projects affecting traffic most right now are on Franklin Street and Mallette Street, the Franklin Street pedestrian crosswalk by McDonald’s and 140 West’s ongoing construction.

He said the 140 West development will begin setting up a sewer and water system next week and will likely cause congestion on Rosemary Street.

Another project at The Courtyard at Franklin Street and Roberson Street will begin July 30 and last for two weeks.

“Everyone seems to wait until the last three weeks to get things done,” Rogers said.

Brian Litchfield, assistant director for Chapel Hill Transit, said the road work hasn’t shut down too many bus stops for any long time period.

Litchfield said the main bus stop closed right now was the stop outside the ROTC building on South Columbia Street. The stop re-opened Thursday.

But he said even temporary closings can be confusing and frustrating for people used to taking the same route every day to work.

“Any time that we have to do a detour or close a bus stop — even if it’s temporary — it can be a challenge,” he said.

Litchfield said in the long-run, the improvements to the road made temporary delays in the short-term necessary.

And despite a notable decrease in the University and town’s populations during the summer thanks to the school break, Litchfield said the number of rides they provide each day has decreased only by about 3,000 to 7,000 in a day.

“It’s a change, but it’s not a huge change,” Litchfield said.

Litchfield said Chapel Hill Transit would begin operating on its school-year schedule beginning Aug. 13.

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