Study tackles safety at Western Boulevard, Avent Ferry Road

ccampbell@newsobserver.comSeptember 23, 2013 

— Western Boulevard could get a pedestrian underpass at Avent Ferry Road to help N.C. State students and others safely navigate the busy intersection.

The $5 million improvement was the recommendation from a feasibility study presented to the Raleigh City Council last week. The option was selected instead of a more costly pedestrian and bus underpass or a full highway-style interchange.

Scott Lane, a consultant who worked on the study, said the idea was popular in a survey of people who use the intersection. He noted that his report comes on the heels of countless studies of the bike and pedestrian problems.

“It’s a time-honored tradition for the engineering classes there to conduct some sort of study,” Lane said. “Hundreds of students a day cross there.”

Avent Ferry Road is one of the busiest intersections along Western because the road forms a barrier between the main campus and the Mission Valley Shopping Center and housing on the south side.

The study found that some students ignore the crosswalk – they think the signal takes too long to change – and instead jaywalk across Western Boulevard elsewhere.

In addition to the pedestrian option, the report looked at two other ways to address the safety problems. One would be to build a wider tunnel under Western to allow buses to cross the intersection from the N.C. State campus without stopping at the light. But that option would cost $9 million and require the closing of Faucette Drive, the campus street that parallels Western.

The third – and most costly – choice is a grade-separated, highway-style interchange replacing the stoplight. That could speed up traffic, but it would cost $19 million and require extra work to ensure pedestrian and bike safety.

Outside the intersection, the study recommends closing Bilyeu Street’s access at Western Boulevard once Pullen Road is extended south to Centennial Parkway. The current intersection poses safety concerns. Other recommendations include additional sidewalks and bike lanes along Western and surrounding streets.

City officials hope N.C. State will help with the improvements. “We’ll be looking at opportunities with N.C. State to look at ways to fund that pedestrian underpass,” said Eric Lamb, the city’s transportation planning manager.

Campbell: 919-829-4802; Twitter: @RaleighReporter

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