Cary rolls out Morrisville Parkway extension plan

aspecht@newsobserver.comNovember 7, 2013 

— It will be years before Morrisville Parkway extends to N.C. 540 and Green Level Church Road, but the town now has a plan for the project.

For more than a decade, Cary town staff have studied options for extending Morrisville Parkway 1.83 miles westward. But they only recently picked a preferred construction plan for the interchange at Morrisville Parkway and N.C. 540.

On Tuesday, Cary staff updated residents on the plan during a public hearing at the fire station on Mills Park Drive.

Plans call for two ramps that would carry traffic off of N.C. 540 onto the parkway and two traffic “loops” that would carry traffic onto N.C. 540.

At a public meeting last year, some nearby property owners said they preferred traffic loops because they take up less space and would have less impact in the area.

Developers have already completed portions of the Morrisville Parkway extension on both sides of N.C. 540, said Todd Delk, a project engineer for Cary. But there is no firm timetable for the road’s completion.

The town has budgeted $2.05 million to acquire land within the Morrisville Parkway right-of-way.

If future budgets allow, and regulatory agencies approve of the town’s design plans, Cary could open that section of Morrisville Parkway sometime between 2016 and 2017, Delk said.

The town will widen Morrisville Parkway to four lanes once traffic levels necessitate expansion. Traffic levels aren’t expected to reach their peak until the Morrisville Parkway-N.C. 540 interchange is complete.

It’s unclear when the North Carolina Turnpike Authority will begin construction of the ramps. Delk said construction could start in 2018 – the year the Turnpike Authority hopes to begin construction on the southern leg of 540.

At the meeting Tuesday, about two dozen residents meandered between maps showing the town’s plans. For some, the Morrisville Parkway extension evoked fears of increased traffic.

John Shaw lives in the Lakeridge neighborhood near Morrisville Parkway, and he said he already has trouble turning left out of his neighborhood.

Cary staff estimate the Morrisville Parkway extension will bring about 9,000 drivers per day when it opens. Completing the interchange will lure 12,000 a day to the road.

So Shaw figures his traffic woes will get worse.

“I am opposed to any extension of Morrisville Parkway beyond Highcroft Drive due to the amount of traffic congestion that will occur at the N.C. 55 intersection and the traffic between N.C. 55 and Davis Drive,” Shaw said.

Cindy Carr said she was bothered that the town had invested about $1 million in a project that still had no firm completion date. She criticized Cary and the Turnpike Authority for working too slowly.

“What happens if design standards change?” Carr said. “I just don’t think it’s fiscally responsible.”

She added: “I’d rather see a park than a road to nowhere.”

Plans for the Morrisville Parkway extension have been on the books since at least 2001, Delk said. Plans to build the interchange at N.C. 540 were delayed due to budget restraints.

But things are moving faster now. Town staff will soon submit an important environmental document to the Federal Highway Administration. Delk hopes the administration approves the plans by early 2014.

Coming to a construction agreement with the community is a big milestone, Delk said. But getting a green light from the feds will be “an even bigger milestone.”

“We’ve come a long way,” he said. “But there’s still a little further to go.”

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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