Orange County

Concerned about traffic, growth on NC 54 west of Carrboro? Here’s your chance to help

An average of 6,000 to 15,000 vehicles travel N.C. 54 West every day, project officials say, and is made worse by the road’s design and the number of big trucks that also use the route.
An average of 6,000 to 15,000 vehicles travel N.C. 54 West every day, project officials say, and is made worse by the road’s design and the number of big trucks that also use the route. Contributed

Three meetings this week will kick off an in-depth look at the future of the N.C. 54 corridor stretching 25 miles from Old Fayetteville Road to Interstate 85/40 in Graham.

At one time, N.C. 54 was a sleepy, scenic road through farmland, forests and crossroads communities between Carrboro and Graham. Now, it’s a vital east-west corridor for rural residents, commuters, freight trucks and UNC game day travelers, averaging 6,000 to 15,000 daily trips.

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VHB Contributed

While that’s not a lot of trips, regional officials say, the highway’s inadequate intersections, heavy turning conflicts and the substantial number of trucks using the corridor add to the congestion.

A yearlong NC 54 West Corridor Study – a partnership among the town of Carrboro, city of Graham, Alamance and Orange counties, the Triangle Area Rural and Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro planning organizations, and the N.C. Department of Transportation – will plan a vision for N.C. 54 and its surrounding communities.

Information about the project, including the study team’s initial findings and existing conditions, will be provided this week at three drop-in public meetings. The public also can submit comments and questions online at www.nc54west.com.

The team wants to hear from the public what it thinks are the unique areas and resources that should be preserved along the highway, its challenges and potential solutions that could be completed in the short term, regional officials said. They are looking for lower-cost, immediate solutions, as well as long-term plans for transportation investments, land use and market development aimed at preserving the highway’s environment and its economic vitality.

The plan will account for pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and transit, team officials said. Construction of future projects will be based on local priorities and the availability of local and state dollars to pay for the work.

They’ve already gathered information about existing conditions and completed market and economic studies, and still are analyzing data about traffic speeds, crashes and how the volume of traffic varies throughout the day. The team also is reviewing a previously planned widening project that raised concerns for Carrboro and Orange County.

While that project is no longer on the NCDOT’s 2018-2027 planning list, the agency is planning to spend $820,000 this year on turn lanes and improving the Orange Grove Road intersection with N.C. 54. Another $3.9 million is budgeted for upgrading N.C. 54 by 2022 for cars, bikes and pedestrians, from Orange Grove Road to Old Fayetteville Road in Carrboro.

Additional community meetings about the highway’s future will be held this spring, and the team will use the information that is collected to draft a preliminary report with proposed projects by summer. A final report is expected later this year.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

What’s next

A series of community meetings will be held in Orange and Alamance counties this week for the public to ask questions, learn more about the N.C. 54 West Corridor Study and offer suggestions:

▪ Tuesday, Jan. 23, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the Rigmor House Event Center, 5501 N.C. 54, Chapel Hill

▪ Wednesday, Jan. 24, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Graham Civic Center, 503 McGee St., Graham

▪ Thursday, Jan. 25, from 6:30- 8:30 p.m. at Carrboro Town Hall, 301 W. Main St., Carrboro

More information is available at nc54west.com or by contacting Aaron Cain, senior transportation planner for the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization, at 919-560-4366.

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