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Chapel Hill and Carrboro roads receive redesign during NCDOT road resurfacing

Franklin Street on August 8, 2022. "No Parking" signs line the streets in Chapel Hill and Carrboro as roads continue to be resurfaced.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is undertaking a street resurfacing and redesigning project in downtown Chapel Hill and Carrboro. 

The project, led by The North Carolina Department of Transportation, includes repaving and repainting parts of West Franklin Street, East Main Street and West Rosemary Street in both Chapel Hill and Carrboro. To avoid daytime traffic, NCDOT  has been working during the night from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. 

In Chapel Hill, Franklin Street will be reduced to two lanes of traffic but will have new bike lanes, according to Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger. She said one reason for this redesign is to improve road safety downtown by slowing cars and protecting pedestrians and cyclists. 

Unlike traditional bike lanes that are exposed to traffic, the added bike lanes on Franklin Street will run between parked cars and the curb. 

Sarah Poulton, senior project manager for the Town of Chapel Hill, said she hopes the bike lanes make Franklin Street more appealing for people using a variety of transportation methods. 

“In addition to benefiting cyclists by adding a bike lane, you also reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians at intersections," Poulton said. 

In Carrboro, NCDOT will add a bike lane along E. Main Street, as well as two center turn lanes.

Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils said the Town of Carrboro used the resurfacing as a chance to rethink the design of Main Street. He also said he believes the project will make pedestrians, cyclists and drivers more comfortable navigating downtown Carrboro.

“It’s really exciting for Carrboro and for Chapel Hill,” Seils said. “It’s going to be transformative for our downtown, especially for Carrboro, where it’s going to turn what was a four-lane roadway with no bike lanes, no center turn lane or anything into a much more urban streetscape.”

For both towns, the street redesigning required approval from NCDOT, as the state owns and maintains the roads. 

“We proposed to NCDOT a few years ago a new design to the road, or at least an idea for a design,” Seils said. “What they said in response was that the Town would need to first conduct an operational analysis, in other words: what would be the operational impacts on the roadway of a new design?”

He said the operational analysis encompassed assessments of traffic congestion, flow of cars, safety issues and impacts on the roadway. Carrboro did not find any negative impacts from the proposed redesign, Seils added. 

According to Poulton, Chapel Hill also found no negative impacts from their proposed redesign. 

Hemminger noted that Chapel Hill is also undertaking its own improvements to Franklin Street that go beyond repaving and redesigning. Planter boxes are being added along the side of the road and the Town plans to more regularly power wash the street. 

“We’re doing all kinds of things in our downtown to clean it up and to make it a lot more appealing and have activities downtown,” she said.

Hemminger said Chapel Hill is already looking at more improvements for downtown in the near future. She also said that future projects include expanding pedestrian crossings, making crosswalks more visible and replacing some street parking spots with outdoor dining spaces for restaurants.

“It gives us opportunities to do more things that attract people to our downtown or keep people downtown, so that helps commercial businesses, mostly our restaurants, bars and shopping, improve," Hemminger said. 

@DTHCityState | 

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