Over the past few years, the area around Lowe’s Boulevard, to the immediate south of the I-40/I-85 corridor, has emerged as a high-intensity area in Mebane in terms of traffic and pedestrian activity.
With a Lowe’s Home Improvement anchoring the Lowe’s Boulevard Corridor, along with the Compass Pointe Center to the immediate south, as well as popular local restaurants La Cocina and Hursey’s Barbecue nearby, Lowe’s Boulevard has seen its daily traffic intensity dramatically in recent years. The traffic will only increase in the future, as two hotels were approved last summer by the City at the far end of Lowe’s Boulevard, beyond Compass Pointe Center and Lowe’s.
Movement along Lowe’s Boulevard can be tricky, with an awkward right-hand turn and then a U-turn necessary to leave the Lowe’s parking area and turn back onto Lowe’s Boulevard towards N.C. Highway 119. Once at the stoplight intersection of Lowe’s Boulevard and Highway 119, drivers turning left towards downtown often have to sit through multiple red lights before they can make their turn.
Last summer, around the time of the approval of the two hotels at the far end of Lowe’s Boulevard, two City Council members - Everette Greene and Tim Bradley - expressed specific concern about that particular area of town, and the difficulties navigating that road.
“They (the North Carolina Department of Transportation) put that road beside the two restaurants there (La Cocina and Hursey's along N.C. Highway 119),” Greene said. “They shut that down for construction. And that, coming in and out of there going to eat, affected (traffic) tremendously.”
“It really messed up Lowe’s Boulevard,” added Bradley. “Coming out, if people are trying to make a left out of Lowe’s to go back towards town or the interstate - everybody coming out of those restaurants, even though they’re making right turns, it prevents you from making a left turn without getting smacked. I’m a frequent flyer at Lowe’s. So I know that coming up from Lowe’s Boulevard to 119 and making a left during lunch and dinner is almost impossible. You’re going to sit there four revolutions on the (stop) light.”
At the time, Assistant City Manager Chris Rollins indicated that Mebane was working with the Burlington-Graham Metropolitan Planning Organization and the North Carolina Department of Transportation to hire an engineering firm to conduct an overall study to look at how Mebane could extend Lowe’s Boulevard over to Trollingwood Road. At this month’s Mebane Planning Board meeting, one of the City’s newest employees, planner Ashley Ownbey, indicated that study has begun.
“We just wanted to make sure the Planning Board was aware that we have started a planning effort for the Lowe’s Boulevard Corridor, which is mentioned in our Comprehensive Transportation Plan. We’ve received funding from the Burlington/Graham MPO to support this effort,” Ownbey informed the Planning Board.
Mebane is working with Ramey Kemp and Associates, who are currently doing some preliminary work on conceptual designs, along with studies intended to help them understand the area better.
“We will be doing possibly - probably - some virtual public hearings, instead of in-person, coming up in the fall about this plan,” Ownbey explained. “We want to make sure you all are aware, and welcome your input throughout this planning effort.”
Connecting Lowe’s Boulevard with Trollingwood-Hawfields Road would greatly improve the transit network in this increasingly traffic-pressured area of Mebane, and is one of the top transportation-related goals of city management.
“It clearly continues to be of importance as far as our long-range transportation plan,” Rollins said of the Lowe’s Boulevard/Trollingwood-Hawfields connection last summer. “I don’t have a definite, clear solution (as to how the connection will work). At a staff level, we have talked about possibly a roundabout being there. We’ve talked about a curve going there. But we will have to, as the projects farther southeast and west of there develop, figure out a way to cut the road over to Trollingwood.”
“Our goal would be to tie it back over at the signal that’s currently at the mobile home park (across from Senator Ralph Scott Parkway),” the Assistant City Manager added. “But all of that will be evaluated as to whether it would go there, whether it goes just north of there. We’ve had discussions about also tying another road back over to Highway 119 South. But our clear intention is to figure out how to get through there. And we’re right at the moment, going through the process, to tie down a way to make that happen.”
“I will note that this road out to Trollingwood is essential,” Mayor Ed Hooks added. “And I know the work that we do that we do with the TAC (Transportation Advisory Committee) and TCC (Technical Coordinating Committee) is vital to make this thing happen as all this area develops. It cannot all go out to 119. It has to have another artery. So this is vital.”
Along with the long-term possibility of a connection with Lowe’s Boulevard and Trollingwood-Hawfields Road, the city is also considering a service road behind Lowe’s Boulevard, which could be a significant short-term improvement for the many travelers making their way to the various stores, restaurants, and other businesses adjacent to N.C. Highway 119.
“I hope that study will include looking at a service road behind State Employees Credit Union, Southern States, Compass Drive, and maybe on down. If you had a service drive behind it, then you wouldn’t have so many exit points coming out onto Highway 119, which ends up blocking traffic. I would hope that service road would be studied,” said Bradley.
“These are the kinds of the challenges that we are going to be faced with in the future,” We’re just getting undulated with traffic. It’s unbelievable. Thanks for continuing to look at all the things you’re looking at. This is what we need to do going forward, because this is only going to get worse,” added Planning Board member Larry Teague at this month’s session.
Mebane City Planning Director Cy Stober added in the recent Planning Board meeting that the project to widen Mebane Oaks Road has been temporarily delayed by the NCDOT due to budget shortfalls amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The project has been delayed. But we are looking to start that widening project on Mebane Oaks Road with NCDOT any month now,” Stober explained. “It was supposed to begin in June. Their $300 million shortfall has put that project in the pinch, but that is in the on-deck circle. As soon as they have enough money to get going again, that will be one of the first projects that gets going."