Cary Town Council nixes median idea for Walnut Street

snagem@newsobserver.comDecember 20, 2013 

— Walnut Street won’t get a median after all.

The Cary Town Council on Thursday unanimously voted in favor of repaving the road in its current pattern, with two travel lanes in each direction and a middle turn lane.

Town staff had recommended reducing the road’s travel lanes between Cary Towne Boulevard and Kildaire Farm Road to make room for a median and bike lanes. The plan aimed to make the area more pleasing to the eye, as it leads downtown, where Cary has placed a renewed focus.

But some residents who live in the area said they opposed the idea because it would hinder access to their properties. More than 160 people signed a petition.

Councilman Don Frantz said he was thinking of Walnut Street residents.

“Would I want to drive by my house every day to turn around, wait and make a U-turn to get home?” he asked. “No, I just wouldn’t.”

Four people spoke in favor of keeping the road as it is during the Town Council meeting on Thursday. One spoke in favor of a median.

Fred Cobb, manager of the State Employees’ Credit Union in the 500 block of Walnut Street, said customers are used to making left turns into and out of the bank property.

“We just think this is going to be a major inconvenience ... to hundreds of our members,” Cobb told the council.

Mayor Harold Weinbrecht said the Walnut Street project made for a tough decision. He ultimately favored the first option, which called for keeping the traffic pattern the same.

“I’d very much like to see a median there,” Weinbrecht said. “I’d very much like to see traffic-calming there, but I just have to go with Option A and side with the residents.”

The council’s operations committee hadn’t reached a consensus on the issue. Frantz and fellow council member Lori Bush wanted to repave Walnut Street as it is. Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson, meanwhile, said she was leaning toward the so-called “road diet.”

Robinson said the town has put medians in other parts of town, including on Davis Drive and High House Road. Those medians require some drivers to make U-turns into subdivisions, she said.

She voted to keep the Walnut Street pattern the same, but she said she did it “with a lot of discomfort.”

“It would have been aesthetically pleasing, it would have slowed down traffic,” Robinson said. “I think it would have been overall good for our community.”

The town expects it will cost about $2 million to repave the road, said Laura Cove, director of Cary’s facilities, design and transportation services department.

The road is badly worn, so workers will have to tear up about 10 inches of pavement, she said. The town will likely bid the project in the spring.

Reducing travel lanes and adding a median would have cost about the same amount, Cove said.

Councilman Ed Yera said he was happy with the process that led to a decision about Walnut Street.

“I think we had clear comments on both sides, and it was wonderful,” he said.


Nagem: 919-460-2605; Twitter: @BySarahNagem

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