Cary wants input on potential bridge over railroad tracks downtown

aspecht@newsobserver.comJanuary 30, 2014 

An Amtrak train rolls across Harrison Avenue near Chapel Hill Road in downtown Cary on Jan. 28.

PAUL A. SPECHT — aspecht@newsobserver.com

  • If you go

    Cary is hosting a public workshop to discuss ideas for building a bridge over the railroad tracks on Harrison Avenue. The meeting is from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the Cary Chamber of Commerce, 307 N. Academy St.

— To prevent traffic jams downtown, Cary is considering building a bridge over the railroad tracks on Harrison Avenue.

Two sets of tracks cross Harrison Avenue between Chapel Hill Road and West Chatham Street. A bridge could allow traffic to flow and pedestrians to cross even when trains are coming through.

Trains go through the area about 16 times a day, sometimes causing traffic backups for several minutes.

Cary staff members expect the issue to grow worse over the coming years.

Rail companies may begin using the lines more frequently, says Todd Delk, a Cary project engineer.

Also, some people are hoping for expanded rail options in the Triangle. A draft transit plan calls for a light-rail line from Cary through downtown Raleigh.

It’s unclear if Wake County commissioners will choose to put a half-cent sales tax on the ballot to help expand rail options.

In November, a visiting panel of transportation experts said Wake isn’t big enough yet to support commuter trains and light-rail service.

Meanwhile, Cary has made a big push to revitalize downtown. The town is investing millions of dollars in public-private partnerships on Academy and Chatham streets to help bring more people to the area.

“With all those issues in play … we wanted to look at the grade separations along the corridor,” Delk said.

The town has budgeted $350,000 to study the area in coordination with the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the state Department of Transportation, Triangle Transit and the N.C. Railroad Company.

Cary staff want to gather input from the public before making any recommendations. A workshop is set to begin at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Cary Chamber of Commerce.

Delk and other Cary staffers will present traffic estimates for Harrison Avenue and discuss the town’s options for improving traffic flow.

“This is basically a visioning workshop,” Delk said. “What we’re doing at this point is preliminary evaluations on what types of projects would work.”

While Cary staff is open to suggestions, Delk said building an underground tunnel would likely be too tough. The tracks are laid in a valley, he said.

“Tunneling would be a little more difficult ... because of the topography out there,” he said.

Meeting participants will be able to review some early ideas of 3-D graphics the town staff has put together, Delk added.

The town will use the input collected at Tuesday’s meeting to craft design concepts for the bridge that will go before the public at another meeting some time this summer.

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

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