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Estes Drive Connectivity Project enters next stage, one-way traffic extended

A road sign indicating the detour route on W. Estes Drive, pictured on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022.

The Estes Drive Connectivity Project is entering its next phase of construction, converting more of Estes Drive to one-way traffic.

The newest section becoming one-way is the portion of Estes Drive from Somerset Drive to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. 

Transportation Planning Manager for Chapel Hill Bergen Watterson said the contractors must make this change to make room for their equipment on the otherwise too-narrow road.

“We've pushed it back as long as we've been able to, because I know that it's gonna cause some disruptions for many people,” she said. 

Watterson also said the driving public is suffering because of the project, and it is causing sizeable detours for people. She said Chapel Hill does not have a very connected road network, and that Estes Drive is one of the only east-to-west thoroughfares through town.

“A lot of traffic is funneled on to Estes — if you want to go from one end of town to the other from east to west, and so when you take away one direction of that travel or one lane, it has a pretty significant impact,” she said. 

Contractors will shut down part of the road and begin work this week. Watterson said the closures will last until the end of the project, which is projected for fall 2023. If possible, the Town will open any section of the road during this process, but she said they need to keep drivers and contractors safe during the construction process.

“We've given them warning, they've been knowing it's coming, we just finally got dates assured and we'll get that part finished up as fast as possible,” Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said. 

The Estes Drive Connectivity Project includes the creation of a multi-use path and raised bike lanes, as well as enhanced crosswalks with warning lights.

The multi-use path will be 10 feet wide and will run along the entire length of the north side of Estes Drive, and a sidewalk will run along the south side.

The project also will result in new crosswalks with changes to the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Estes Drive intersection. Specifically, an additional left turn lane on westbound Estes Drive and right turn lanes on both directions of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will be added. The project will also put crosswalks with pedestrian signals on all four corners of the intersection.

Chapel Hill resident Arleigh Greenwald said in an email that she is excited about the new bike path, and it is a great connector to Estes Hills Elementary School, where her daughter attends, and Guy B. Phillips Middle School. 

She and her family live in the Lake Forest neighborhood, which is near Estes Drive. 

Greenwald also said the current construction has made it harder to get around Chapel Hill and Carrboro, but the new path will connect her and her family safely to places like the buses on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the YMCA.

“We moved to Chapel Hill last year for a biking and walking community,” Chapel Hill resident Arleigh Greenwald said via email.

The Town is providing community members with weekly updates on the Estes Drive Connectivity Project. Those interested can sign up for email updates and view the final project plans on the Town's website.


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