Council To Study One-Way Traffic Pattern On Cape Fear Blvd.

Council To Study One-Way Traffic Pattern On Cape Fear Blvd. Featured

By / Local News / Wednesday, 19 November 2014 05:00

Managing Editor

CAROLINA BEACH  - The Carolina Beach Town Council voted at their November 10th, meeting to study whether or not to implement a new one-way traffic pattern on Cape Fear Blvd east of Lake Park Blvd near the downtown Boardwalk area.
The proposal was first introduced to the Town Council earlier this year as an alternative plan to an already approved streetscape project which would return to the road to a two-way street once a project to replace aging water and sewer lines is completed prior to the Spring of 2015.
The Council agreed during their October 28th, workshop meeting to conduct the traffic study which will determine if changing to a one-way traffic pattern will positively or negatively impact traffic flow in the downtown area.
According to Assistant Town Manager Ed Parvin, part of the Phase 1A infrastructure project is to enhance the streetscape on Cape Fear Blvd. The Phase 1A project began earlier this year in the Spring to replace aging water, sewer and storm water lines underground.
Parvin explained to Council earlier this week, "The streetscape design was included in the current Phase 1A bid as a two way design that looks very similar to what is there today. The biggest change is the width of sidewalks has increased on Cape Fear from 6' to 10'."
Parvin explained that at a September 30, 2014 workshop a one-way option was reviewed and received a significant amount of interest by the public and Town Council.
On October 14, 2014 Town Council directed Town staff to look at options for moving forward under several scenarios.
1. Implement as bid.
2. Complete traffic study.
3. Complete only the underground infrastructure that can be completed this year without a final determination on a streetscape.
4. Install the two way bid design and reinstall the one way next year.
Parvin explained at the October 28, 2014 Town Council workshop Town staff presented costs for these options and town Council requested the item be placed on the November 10, 2014 agenda to decide on how to move forward.
The current cost to implement the streetscape design as originally planned for two-way traffic is $358,476.
Conducting a traffic study and implementing the one-way design is estimated at $481,911.50.
If the Town implements the two-way design and decides to implement the one-way design after a traffic study the following year, the cost is estimated at $709,765.50.
Parvin explained the traffic study will be completed in the following manner:
1. Officials with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO) will meet with the Town to discuss peak summer demands, special event peaks, conduct the site visit to obtain field measurements, verify features of the existing intersection and roadways to be studied. The following four (4) intersections will be studied: Cape Fear and Lake Park, Cape Fear and Canal Drive, Harper and Lake Park, and Harper and Canal Drive.
2. Coordinate with Wilmington MPO and NCDOT to discuss scope.
3. Conduct study (2 weeks)
4. Preliminary study results to the Town (1 week for Town review and comments)
5. Town meeting/Workshop
The study is estimated to be completed within four (4) weeks from the notice to proceed. The original traffic study proposal for $7,500 only included one (1) meeting with the town. If the town requests that the traffic engineer is present for council meetings and/or public workshops to present to the public, there will be an additional $1,500 fee for each meeting.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
During the Council's November 10th, meeting Councilman Gary Doetsch explained, "Let's say we did the traffic study and it comes back and says one-way won't work. We spent $7,500" to find out whether or not it would work and they could move on.
Councilman Shuttleworth explained, "My experience with traffic studies, unless it's really bad, they are not going to come back and say you can't do a one-way, they'll say you can do it and here is the impact."
Town Manager Michael Cramer said the study will take three to four weeks and once completed it will be brought back to the Council for review and a final decision on which traffic pattern should be implemented.
Cramer said it's a tight timeline but the utility project and streetscape project could still be completed on time prior to Spring of 2015.
The Council voted four to one with Mayor Wilcox and Council members Gary Doetsch, Steve Shuttleworth and Leann Pierce voting in favor of the traffic study. Council member Sarah Friede voted no.
Friede pointed out the current plan for a two-way streetscape was adopted by Council after holding public workshops and she felt the Town should stick to that plan. Councilman Shuttleworth agreed with that point.


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