New installations in downtown, more projects to come

Stoplights are currently being installed at the intersection of Third Street and Washington Street in downtown Mebane, to the immediate south of the railroad tracks and adjacent to the Mebane Public Library. Stoplights are in the process of being installed at Third Street and Fourth Street's intersections with Washington and Center Streets, as part of a project sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The stoplights at the Center Street intersections are replacing old stoplights, adding turn lights. There are also new "ped heads," which are designed to improve pedestrian safety at these busy local intersections. 

City of Mebane planners and elected officials have been working with the North Carolina Department of Transportation in recent years to study and conceive of ideas to improve traffic and pedestrian accessibility not only in the downtown Mebane area, but in the area to the immediate east of downtown. And while some of these projects may be months or even years down the line, it’s evident that state officials have their eyes on the ever-growing eastern Alamance County/western Alamance County area. 

At a recent City Council meeting, Mebane staff announced a series of pedestrian and roadway improvements currently underway along one congested section of downtown, along with a planned set of improvements for the corridor along the railroad tracks. The railroad tracks themselves are the private property of the railroad companies who operate them. 

A couple years ago, the North Carolina Department of Transportation approved new stoplights at the intersection of Third and Fourth Streets and Washington Street, to the immediate south of the railroad crossing in downtown Mebane, along with the Third and Fourth Street intersections on the other side of the railroad tracks at N.C. Highway 70 (Center Street). The stoplights at the intersections of Third and Fourth Street with Center Street replace the current stoplights, adding green turn lights for traffic turning left from Third and Fourth Street onto Center Street. 

As part of the improvements, the DOT is also adding “ped heads,” push-button pedestrian crossings, which will improve safety and accessibility for folks who walk along this busy downtown corridor.  

Assistant City Manager Chris Rollins indicated that while substantial utility relocation had to be done by Duke Energy and other utility companies, those projects are mostly completed. New stoplights are currently in the process of installation at the intersections of Third Street with Washington and Center Streets, with the work on Fourth Street coming next. 

“We’ve seen little bits of work, and little bits of work. They did have some utility relocations to do. And with the storms we’ve had (there were delays). But they’re winding everything up. They’re finally happening,” Rollins said. 

Rollins also indicated that businesses and homeowners along Fifth Street, along with members of the City Council and City of Mebane staff, participated in a Traffic Separation Study with NCDOT, Norfolk Southern, and the NCDOT’s Rail Division. 

The study recommended fencing along the railroad corridor, which would keep pedestrians from walking on or along the railroad tracks. The improvements also call for modifications along Fifth Street to accommodate the new fencing, pedestrian exchanges at Third and Fourth Street, pedestrian improvements at the railroad’s crossing at Moore Road, and some traffic separation at the railroad crossing on Gibson Road. According to Rollins, all of those projects are currently in the design phase.

The Mebane City Council approved the changes that were recommended by the Traffic Separation Study, and the City of Mebane has hired a consultant engineer to prepare plans for the project, with the hope of having those done in the coming months.

The City of Mebane also continues to keep a close on the Buckhorn Road corridor, which is a key area for potential future industrial and commercial growth just a couple miles from downtown.

As a result of the growth in and around Mebane, N.C. Highway 70 and Buckhorn Road have become two particularly well-traveled roadways, with commuters, residual freeway traffic, tractor-trailers who have come off the freeway, as well as a variety of pedestrians and bicyclists making the pair of two-lane highways an area of considerable traffic pressure.

This past winter, the Orange County Commissioners approved an Access Management Plan for a proposed Efland-Buckhorn-Mebane planning corridor. A 2017 traffic study of the Buckhorn Road area indicated that traffic had doubled in the area in just over a decade. 

The new plan calls for a variety of lane improvements, curb and gutter improvements, and sidewalks for new streets in the Buckhorn Road area, along with additional paved shoulders along the sides of the roads.

“We have been interested in that project, even though it’s outside the city limits,” Rollins said. “There’s been a lot of accidents down there (at the Buckhorn Road corridor).”