At a recent Zoom meeting on January 7, as well as in the Mebane Planning Board meeting on January 11, city planners and consultants went into considerable detail in regards to the potential options for extending Lowe’s Boulevard down to Trollingwood-Hawfields Road, while also connecting Lowe’s Boulevard with Hawfields Middle School. The project, otherwise known as the Lowe’s Boulevard Corridor Plan, would give the City of Mebane long-term relief from current traffic congestion along N.C. Highway 119 and surrounding roadways that is deemed insufficient by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
At the beginning of the project, consultant Ramey Kemp and Associates met with City leaders to go over some of Mebane’s desires for the corridor plan. In that meeting, it was discussed that the City provide a multi-use path for cyclists and pedestrians to also utilize the new roadway as well.
“We discussed that the road would likely be one lane per direction, which was confirmed with the traffic analysis that we did at the start of our study,” said Devyn Lozzi of Ramey Kemp and Associates explained to the Mebane Planning Board. “But we also wanted to be mindful of the possibility of growth in the future. And we wanted to think through what would happen if this roadway ever needed to be widened in the future. So we did look at a right-of-way for a four-lane section versus a two-lane section, just to better understand what kind of impacts that would have, to make sure we weren’t having any negative impacts due to any possible widening.”
Ramey Kemp and Associates were also asked through the Lowe’s Boulevard corridor plan to provide direct access to Hawfields Middle School, via the school’s driveway. In their work, the consultants were careful to try and examine how they could minimize impacts to some of the historic sites in the area, as well as the ever-growing North Carolina Commerce Park.
“In order to meet all those needs, we had to consider a couple of different things,” Lozzi explained. “In the study area, there are existing buildings that are both commercial and residential. We wanted to limit our impacts to those. We also wanted to limit the impacts to the nearby historic sites, the church and the cemetery that are near the intersection of N.C. 119 and Trollingwood-Hawfields Road. We needed to be mindful of any known environmental features, such as retention ponds or streams that are within the study area.”
The consultants considered two possible cross-sections - a two-lane divided roadway, and a three-lane roadway with a center turn lane. The proposed two-lane divided roadway would be one travel lane in each direction with a raised center median, including dedicated turning lanes. It would limit left turns, with the possibility for landscaping in the median. The three-lane roadway would include dedicated right-turn lanes in addition to the third center turn lane, and does not limit left turns.
“Sometimes those medians are landscaped. Sometimes those medians are plain concrete,” Lozzi explained in regards to the two-lane roadway. “It’s really up to the jurisdiction that the roadway is within, and who is maintaining it. One of the unique things about the two-lane divided (road) is it limits where left turns can be made, which is different from the three-lane section, where there is a center turn lane. The three-lane section would still have the one travel lane in each direction, but instead of the center raised median, you would have a two-way center turn lane. Left turns would not be limited with the three-lane section.”
The median in the proposed two-lane divided roadway is 23 feet, which is the preferred length of medians for the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Ramey Kemp is proposing a 10-foot multi-use path, which is wide enough both for pedestrians and cyclists to utilize the path at the same time. The three-lane section would have a 12-foot middle turn lane in addition to the 10-foot multi-use path, as well as curb and gutter on each side of the roadway.
Concept 1A of the possible roadways would include a stop signs at the intersection of Lowe’s Boulevard Extension and the proposed road extension towards Hawfields Middle School. The traffic along Lowe’s Boulevard Extension is through movement, with no stops between the existing Lowe’s Boulevard and Trollingwood-Hawfields Road. The existing traffic signal at Trollingwood-Hawfields Road and Sen. Ralph Scott Parkway, leading into the North Carolina Commerce Park, would remain as it currently is. There is also a proposed traffic signal that would be constructed at N.C. Highway 119 and Hawfields Middle School Road.
“This concept, we considered Lowe’s Boulevard Extension to be the main roadway. We are considering stop-controlled intersections. So when you approach the intersection as the minor street, you would have to come to a stop before considering,” said Lozzi. “Any vehicles traveling on this roadway (Lowe’s Boulevard Extension) would not have to stop at this internal section (heading towards Hawfields Middle School). They would be considered “main traffic,” and they’ll just keep continuing on through until they get to Trollingwood-Hawfields Road. Vehicles traveling on this Hawfields Middle School extension would have to stop before continuing.”
Concept 1B is very similar to Concept 1A, with the exception that it includes proposed roundabouts at two intersections. The roundabouts would provide traffic control along Lowe’s Boulevard at the existing Lowe’s Boulevard, as well as a second roundabout at Lowe’s Boulevard Extension and Hawfields Middle School Road extension. The existing traffic signal at Trollingwood-Hawfields and Sen. Ralph Scott Parkway would remain, and the plans would still call for the new traffic signal at N.C. 119 and Hawfields Middle School Road.
Concept 2A differs from Concept 1A and 1B in that Hawfields Middle School Road extension from N.C. 119 to Trollingwood-Hawfields Road would be considered the main roadway. Travelers on that particular stretch of road would not have to make a stop. The traffic signals proposed in Concept 1A and 1B would stay the same. Vehicles traveling along Lowe’s Boulevard Extension would have to make a complete stop in Concept 2A. There is also a Concept 2B, which keeps everything the same from Concept 2A except for the addition of roundabouts.
There is also a Concept 3, which is shown as a three-lane section with stop signs at Lowe’s Boulevard Extension and Hawfields Middle School Road Extension. There would be roundabouts at Sen. Ralph Scott Parkway Extension, as well as the Hawfields Middle School Road Extension. Lowe’s Boulevard would extend from its current end point near Lowe’s Home Improvement to connect with Trollingwood-Hawfields Road near the gas station. As with the other plans, this concept calls for the traffic signal at N.C. 119 and Hawfields Middle School Road.
Concept 4 was included at the behest of City staff. Not shown on the public website, this fourth concept was conceived as another possible alternative after speaking with local landowners, including the owner of the nearby Villastrigo Mobile Home Park along Trollingwood-Hawfields Road. Concept 4 would cost approximately $4.7 million to construct from start to finish. Roundabouts could be accommodated in Concept 4.
“It (Concept 4) is development-driven,” Lozzi explained. “So that the landowners could possibly develop their property into outparcels. It’s very similar to Concept 3, except this connection road is shifted closer to Trollingwood-Hawfields Road. This would allow for the property to possibly be developed into different outparcels.”
“It looks like Concept 4 opens up all of that space behind Southern States and behind La Cocina, and makes more of a business section there, even though it’s taking part of Villastrigo,” said Planning Board member Judy Taylor. “It looks like that would open that up to be more of a Business Center. And maybe that’s what the owners of Villastrigo are thinking about - the future of that piece of property. It makes it into a whole section there.”
“That was the feedback that we generally got,” said Mebane Development Director Cy Stober.
Lozzi presented a table with the proposed cost estimates of the various roadways. Concepts 1B and 2B, with the roundabouts, would cost approximately $4.5 million and $4.6 million, respectively, while Concepts 1A and 2A come in at projections of $3.4 million and $3.5 million, respectively. There is also a potential Phase 2, which would include an additional direct roadway adjacent to Lowe’s Boulevard Extension. This Phase 2, which the City hopes would be paid for by any private developers who wish to establish businesses on the subject land, would add approximately $1.9 million to any of the varying scenarios. Concept 3 would be the most expensive of the potential plans, at a price tag of $6.1 million, but it would already include the proposed Phase 2.
The City received 31 participants on its online survey through the January 11 Planning Board meeting. Most are neighbors or live near the proposed Lowe’s Boulevard corridor, and expressed concerns about traffic congestion and safety in the nearby area. Public opinion of traffic in the study area is mostly negative. Some mentioned that the traffic is only bad during rush hour and school pick-up and drop-off times. 60 percent of the participants say pedestrian access is important, while 52 percent say bicycle access is important. Future economic growth was the most important factor from most participants in terms of putting value on design factors.
A majority of participants preferred Concept 3 (40 percent), while the roundabout options - Concepts 1B and 2B - were tied as the second-preferred option at 30 percent each.