Carolina Beach Council Discusses Cape Fear Blvd One-way Proposal

Carolina Beach Council Discusses Cape Fear Blvd One-way Proposal Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 15 October 2014 04:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH  - The Carolina Beach Town Council heard an update at their October 14th, meeting on a proposal to convert Cape Fear Blvd east of Lake Park Blvd to a one-way pattern leading to the intersection of Harper Avenue and Canal Drive.
The Council originally heard the proposal at their September regular meeting. The ongoing Phase 1A water and sewer project will return to Cape Fear Blvd later this month after completing replacement of underground utility lines last Spring. Once the work is complete, the roads and sidewalks will be replaced as part of a streetscape project. The original plan called for ten-foot wide sidewalks and two-way traffic. The latest proposal would change that to one-way traffic with 17' 5" wide sidewalks on either side of Cape Fear near the Boardwalk.
Residents and business owners attended a workshop at Carolina Beach Town Hall on September 30th, to learn more about an upcoming streetscape project on Cape Fear Blvd in the downtown area.
Businesses along Cape Fear Blvd will soon witness the start of a streetscape project to pave that road an install new sidewalks and landscaping.
Business owners are concerned about the scheduling of the project and how it will impact the ability for customers to park and access their buildings.
Regardless of the decision on one or two-way traffic patterns, the work will impact pedestrian and vehicle traffic in the area throughout the holiday season. That has business owners concerned with the potential loss of holiday customer traffic at a time when business is slow during the off-season. Holidays pay the bills and keep the lights on for those small business owners and their employees.
Gil DuBois - Public Utilities and Capital Projects Director - said the streetscape project will begin sometime around October 10th and is scheduled for completion by February of 2015. The project will improve underground utilities including stormwater drainage. New sidewalks will be wider with additional landscaping areas. The road will be paved once the work is completed.
The Town closed the road earlier this year prior to the summer season to install new underground utility lines for water and sewer.
The Council gave direction during their Tuesday September 9th, meeting to Town Manager Michael Cramer to move forward with obtaining plans for redesigning Cape Fear Blvd east of Lake Park Blvd, as one-way traffic pattern ultimately connecting to Harper Avenue.
Cape Fear Blvd on the west side of Lake Park Blvd would remain a two-way street with a center turn lane. A streetscape project is already scheduled under contract to begin in October leaving little time to hold public meetings and reach out to local business owners for input.
According to Assistant Town Manager Ed Parvin, "Carolina Beach has continued to research and review the flow of traffic in the Central Business District (CBD). Conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles are of particular concern when events occur downtown."
Events that commonly generate traffic and pedestrian conflicts include fireworks displays and other pedestrian oriented events.
The recommended changes would require amending the Town's current contract with State Utility Contractors for the ongoing Phase 1A Utility project. That project replaced aging water and sewer lines on Cape Fear Blvd east of Lake Park Blvd earlier this year. Work will begin in October to complete the streetscape portion of that project in that area and is set to be complete by February.
The Town will have two crews working on Cape Fear Blvd on both sides of Lake Park Blvd at the same time. One crew on the portion between Lake Park Blvd and the Boardwalk. The other  crew will work on the portion west of Lake Park Blvd.
During the Council's Tuesday October 14th, meeting, Ed Parvin presented several options to the Council. One option included a u-turn area. Parvin explained they have provided an option for a round-about which allows truck and fire truck access along Cape Fear to Canal, a drop off area, and a way for cars to turn around and return west along Cape Fear. This would require going back to the original design of 2-way lanes. He explained, "We would also suggest leaving the 15’ wide travel lanes provided in the original design to allow for truck parking along Cape Fear."
Parvin said one question came up at their recent meeting, will the one way plan create more of a traffic jam or bottle neck at Cape Fear or Canal and Harper?
Parvin explained, "No way to know without doing a true traffic study to learn the amount of traffic counts and movements during going east on Cape Fear or north on Canal."
Parvin offered several options:
1. Move forward with the current two way design that was sent to bid
2. Approve the one way design.
3. Approve the two way design on Cape Fear and one way going north on Canal. Approximately 30 days would be required to finalize engineer drawings for option 2 or 3.
4. Complete the water sewer portion of the improvements this year and put back the same streetscape.  Complete a traffic study next summer.  Bid the final streetscape and stormwater design recommended by the Town and engineers.
Parvin explained, "Costs associated with engineering and constructing a new streetscape/stormwater design would be approximately $100,000."
The Council was unsure about moving forward without a study of traffic flows in the area.
Councilman Steve Shuttleworth explained, "My bigger issue was a traffic impact study and not relying on ten year old data." He said, "Without a traffic impact analysis I think that's perilous and end up back at a road diet problem. I'm not opposed to a one-way but I just don't have enough information to make that decision in this meeting."
Councilman Gary Doetsch said he was hesitant to move forward without a traffic impact study.
Mayor Dan Wilcox said, "It's not just about the streetscape. We are getting ready to do a whole new Boardwalk. We are getting ready to revisit our existing Boardwalk areas and improve those. We are wanting development to come in on the empty lots and maybe even some take down of some of the older buildings to make the area more robust."
He explained, "I think if we create the right entrance into our Boardwalk area it will promote development which is important, we have a number of empty lots sitting out there."
Wilcox said he has concerns about moving forward with a one-way design without a traffic study.
He explained, "Rather than put in the old streetscape, I would go for delaying the project on Cape Fear, go ahead and do the one-way on Canal and doing the traffic study and coming back the following season. I would love to have it this season but right now I would be inclined to air on the side of a traffic study.
Ultimately no vote was taken. Council asked staff to allow them more time to consider the options. They have 60 days under their contract for the project but council hopes to have a better understanding by the next workshop meeting on October 28th at 6PM.

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