Orange County

Stuck in traffic on 15-501 between Chapel Hill and Durham? Here's a chance to fix it

The N.C. Department of Transportation's preferred alternative for the intersection of Garrett Road and U.S. 15-501 in Durham would take the highway over Garrett Road, adding off- and on-ramps from Garrett Road for access. Construction could start by 2020.
The N.C. Department of Transportation's preferred alternative for the intersection of Garrett Road and U.S. 15-501 in Durham would take the highway over Garrett Road, adding off- and on-ramps from Garrett Road for access. Construction could start by 2020. Contributed

Do you travel on U.S. 15-501 between Durham and Chapel Hill? Do you have suggestions for making the trip faster and less frustrating.

The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and N.C. Department of Transportation began a Reimagining 15-501 Corridor Study in March to look at what needs to be done.

A public workshop Tuesday, June 26, at the Church of the Good Shepherd will give the community a chance to weigh in. The event will include a presentation and time for questions and comments.

"We know some of the issues going on, but it's very good to hear from the people who drive that road every day and deal with it on a regular basis as to what their concerns are," said Aaron Cain, senior transportation planner with the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro MPO. "And make sure we're addressing some things that might not be as evident from a professional point of view."

US 15-501 Corridor Map.jpg
Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization Contributed

The 18-month U.S. 15-501 study covers the highway from Ephesus Church Road in Chapel Hill to University Drive in Durham, plus new and future development within a quarter-mile of the corridor. The results will help update a 1994 transportation and development master plan.

They're not looking for solutions yet, project manager Michael Bruff said.

"We're wanting to take a fresh look at the entire corridor," Bruff said, "and look at it based on the new development that's going in place — Patterson Place and New Hope Commons — as well as Durham-Orange light rail, and see what type of ideas, of concepts, that we can come up with to improve the 15-501 corridor going into the future."

It's not just about what works for cars, Bruff said, but for all the ways people are getting around, from cycling to walking, buses and the planned light-rail line. It also will be important to consider how those improvements affect environmentally sensitive areas, like the New Hope Creek Corridor.

The proposed light-rail route crosses New Hope Creek during one of multiple turns toward U.S. 15-501. Stations are planned just west of Interstate 40 in Chapel Hill and at the Patterson Place shopping center, where the rail line runs along U.S. 15-501 until it turns south at Garrett Road toward University Drive.

DOLRT
A concept illustration shows a train on the future Durham-Orange Light-Rail Transit traveling alongside U.S. 15-501. Courtesy of GoTriangle

The rail line cross the highway once more at the Shannon Road intersection, just east of the South Square shopping center.

Regional studies forecast the light-rail line will increase dense development in the corridor, adding more people, businesses and traffic. Barring any improvements to U.S. 15-501, a 2045 Metropolitan Transportation study predicts even more gridlock and delays throughout the corridor.

Some changes already being considered include potentially converting U.S. 15-501 into a freeway from I-40 to the Durham bypass. NCDOT is finishing the plans now for a new interchange that would carry U.S. 15-501 traffic over Garrett Road, which would connect via on- and off-ramps. Construction is tentatively scheduled for 2020.

Congestion and safety already have been identified as major concerns at the Garrett Road intersection and at nearby Mt. Moriah Road. Other public concerns include the need for better pedestrian crossings and sidewalks, bike lanes, and the merger of two lanes into one at Ephesus Church Road and U.S 15-501 in Chapel Hill.

The NCDOT's 10-year plan already includes:

Multi-use paths and pedestrian and bike crossings from Willow Drive, just west of Ephesus Church Road, to Old Durham Road

Sidewalks and transit facilities from Ephesus Church Road to Interstate 40

$195 million to rebuild the Interstate 40 interchange with U.S. 15-501

Improved intersections or bridges routing U.S. 15-501 over Mt. Moriah Road and SW Durham Drive

Sidewalks, better bike lanes and better intersections between Nation Avenue and University Drive

The suggestions that planners get through the Reimagining 15-501 Corridor Study website and at Tuesday's meeting could influence the design of specific projects throughout the corridor, Bruff said. Any construction wouldn't happen until at least the late 2020s, he said.

Residents who cannot attend the workshop can post their comments on an interactive map by Tuesday, July 10. DCHC-MPO staff will post updates to Facebook and Twitter using #reimagining15501.

What's next

More information about the Reimagining 15-501 Corridor Study can be found at reimagining15501.com.

The public workshop and visioning activity for the corridor study is from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 26, at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 3741 Garrett Road in Durham. A formal presentation begins at 6:30 p.m. Parking is available in the church parking lot.

Americans with Disabilities Act assistance is available by calling 919-560-4366, ext. 36444, or email Michael.Bruff@DurhamNC.gov at least 48 hours before the event. Those who have trouble reading, speaking or understanding English can request interpretive services by calling 919-560-4366, ext. 36444.

Aquellas personas que hablan español y no hablan inglés, o tienen limitaciones para leer, hablar o entender inglés, podrían recibir servicios de interpretación si los solicitan antes de la reunión llamando al 919-560-4366, ext. 36444.

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