Certain sections of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, East Rosemary Street and Ephesus Church Road were closed as various road projects began this week.
The closures will affect driving routes, as well as pedestrian walkways and public transit stops, according to the Town of Chapel Hill's website.
East Rosemary Street will be closed between the Rosemary Lot and Wallace Deck for six months for construction of a new parking deck, and Ephesus Church Road will be closed for two months between Fordham Boulevard and South Elliott Road to replace a stormwater pipe. A northbound lane on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Estes Drive will be closed for three months.
Alex Carrasquillo, the Chapel Hill community safety public information officer, said there may be community frustration around the closures and the traffic they may cause.
“There's not really a good time to close Rosemary with something that long,” he said. “But just something I like to point out is that it's frustrating, but I think the payoff will be really good in the end.”
Carrasquillo said the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard lane closure will have the greatest effect on traffic, as the road is one of the busiest in Chapel Hill.
Vision Zero Chapel Hill, a program meant to eliminate pedestrian fatalities, worked with the Town to close an outside lane to vehicles and turn it into a walkway for pedestrians while construction takes place on the road's sidewalk as part of the Estes Drive Connectivity Project.
Chapel Hill complete streets specialist Ian Baltutis — who is a part of Vision Zero — said pedestrian safety was especially a concern along a busy road like Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, where many fatalities have occurred in the past.
“Our council committed the community to the idea that we should not sacrifice human life in the pursuit of efficiency or reducing congestion, and that's the Vision Zero mindset,” he said. “So closing a lane, causing some congestion, is a worthy price to pay to prevent the loss of human life.”