Engineers to rework intersection plan

May. 26, 2014 @ 07:19 PM

Plans to rebuild the intersection of Fayetteville Street, Riddle Road and Buxton Street will go on hold for a bit to give engineers time to rework their blueprints, officials told the City Council.

The move responds to a recent decision by the N.C. Department of Transportation that went back on the state agency’s previous willingness to allow the city to place drainage controls in the Fayetteville Street right of way.

Engineers will rework the plan to eliminate them, which will likely mean the city doesn’t need to buy as much land for the project.

That’s music to the ears of some City Council members who balked last month at the cost of one of the land acquisitions, which was clocking in around the $1 million an acre mark.

It’s “good to hear that you’re looking … at ways to reduce the cost,” Councilman Steve Schewel told city Transportation Director Mark Ahrendsen.

The pending redesign will consume about $53,928 in additional engineering costs. Council members indicated they will approve the contract change early next month.

Ahrendsen attended Thursday’s council work session to brief members on the history of the $5.3 million intersection realignment, which is part of a larger effort using city funds to widen a two-lane stretch of Fayetteville Street from Buxton Street south to Barbee Road.

Officials conceived the widening about 15 years ago after studying south Durham’s infrastructure needs in light of developments like The Streets at Southpoint mall.

A good bit of the work they envisioned, including the widening of Fayetteville Road from the mall north to Woodcroft Parkway, has already been done, Ahrendsen said.

The Buxton/Riddle/Fayetteville area needs special attention because Buxton and Riddle join the main highway about 100 feet apart, rather than at the single intersection the realignment will create.

The existing offset of the side streets “provided a very short left turn lane [on Fayetteville] shared between southbound and northbound vehicles, to where it was very confusing [because] they are sharing the same space going in opposite directions,” Ahrendsen said.

City officials have been buying land for the project over the past couple of years. The deal that drew council objections last month envisioned paying $275,000 for 0.29 acres on the southeast corner of Fayetteville and Riddle.

Administrators acknowledged they were paying a premium for the land to compensate its owner for the loss of parking spaces that now serve a small convenience store.

Public Works Department emails suggest at least one other landowner with property the city needs has also been holding out for a better deal.

The council’s cost objections have sparked worry from some residents that the council might abandon the project. That in turn triggered a meeting and tour of the area among them, Schewel and Councilman Eddie Davis.

Schewel said the tour had highlighted the problem with the turn lane. “Hopefully [the redesign] will come back with a reasonable cost for a good project,” he said.

Mayor Bill Bell -- who lives in south Durham and commutes to an office in the UDI Community Development Corp. complex near the intersection of Fayetteville and the Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway -- said the larger project also is needed.

“I drive that every day and can’t wait until we get that widening,” Bell said. “When you see the traffic on there, you see how much Durham is growing.”

Ahrendsen’s figures indicate the two-lane portion of Fayetteville between Buxton Street and Woodcroft Parkway is operating at anywhere from 107 percent to 136 percent of its rated capacity.