In North Carolina, Durham transportation engineers recently completed a re-striping process on the state-maintained highway, U.S. 15-501. This was completed in an effort to accommodate a road diet plan that will ensure a safer road for vehicles. The intent is to discourage speeding through a commercial area where vehicles routinely travel 10 to 15 mph faster than the 35 mph posted limit.
The plan involves reconfiguring a one-mile stretch of U.S 15-501, known as Chapel Hill Boulevard, reducing its current five lanes to three while adding bicycle lanes on each side, in addition to on-street parking. Durham’s Transportation Director said that the parking spaces would be placed so as not to interfere with sightlines- adding an additional layer of safety. The bike lane addition is part of the city’s 2006 Comprehensive Bicycle Transportation Plan, but was never a high priority to implement. As the North Carolina Department of Transportation was set to resurface the road in 2015, it provided a window of opportunity to put down the new lane stripes.
Currently, Chapel Hill Boulevard carries around 14,000 vehicles a day between Chapel Hill Road and University Drive, a figure that has remained steady for the past decade. A traffic study completed at a nearby neighborhood’s request found that 80 percent of the cars on the road were speeding, which called for adjustments to make the road safer, while still accommodating the current vehicle traffic. Under the road diet plan, fewer crashes are projected on the smaller road, which experienced 157 accidents from 2009 to 2014. Residents and business owners also pushed for efforts to make the road safer to encourage more walking, biking, and use of the bus stops.
Despite support for the changes to Chapel Hill Boulevard, many individuals raised concerns about restricting the traffic flow and diverting vehicles onto smaller neighborhood streets. Similar concerns were raised during a proposed road diet for East Boulevard in Charlotte, North Carolina. Once completed, the changes to East Boulevard resulted in a reduction of travel speeds and crashes with little change in traffic volumes. East Boulevard also experiences higher daily traffic volumes than Chapel Hill Boulevard. Furthermore, a study conducted by the Project for Public Spaces concluded that outdoor dining significantly increased along the East Boulevard corridor after the project completed. This is good news for the popular restaurants and bakeries that line the Chapel Hill Boulevard corridor, like Foster’s Market and Guglhupf. The next steps the city must consider are sidewalk improvements that would increase the livability of the street, as well as spur additional investment along the corridor.
Have any roads in your city experienced a road diet? What benefits did the nearby residents and businesses experience after implementation? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.
Credits: Images by Rachel Eberhard. Data linked to sources.