On the evening of January 7, City of Mebane planners held an online Zoom meeting with citizens in order to provide more information about the proposed Lowe’s Boulevard Corridor plan, and to gather public feedback on the project. Mebane has conducted an extensive study of the proposed Lowe’s Boulevard Extension with assistance from the Burlington-Graham Metropolitan Planning Organization, who provided much of the funding for the study.
Mebane Planning Director Cy Stober explained that the City has come up with a color-coded plan for the area surrounding Lowe’s Boulevard. A current map of the area shows that most of the nearby roadways have levels of service deemed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation to be inadequate for the traffic flows those roadways currently accommodate.
“This project is recommended in the City’s Comprehensive Transporation Plan,” Stober explained. “It was adopted by the City in 2018. The intention is to address current conditions in this location. DOT assigns the values, and we have a plan that has a color code for it. The intersection of Trollingwood-Hawfields Road and N.C. (Highway) 119 - the purple means that it has a level of service of “F”, which is as bad as it sounds. This is largely due to congestion issues on 119.”
“The darker blue-green color is a level of service “D”, which is also viewed as unacceptable by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and in need of remedy,” Stober continued. “That was the technical driver for this, was to address this issue. We also know that the intersection of Trollingwood-Hawfields Road and North Carolina 119 is a level of service “F” as well, and is frequently a huge cause of concern, especially in non-COVID conditions when school is in full service. You have peak hours that extend beyond rush hour for pickup and drop-off at schools.”
Stober indicated that some of these issues are being addressed by NCDOT. The state is funding a project which will widen N.C. 119 to relieve some of that traffic. But when the City projects out approximately 20 years to 2040, there will still be “D” levels of service at the Trollingwood-Hawfields/N.C. 119 intersection, along with “F” level services farther north up N.C. Highway 119 heading towards downtown Mebane.
“The idea of this is by extending Lowe’s Boulevard, we can address all of these current and projected concerns for congestion, for safety, and so on,” Stober said.
Stober indicated there was a challenge with the Trollingwood-Hawfields/N.C. Highway 119 intersection in that it can’t simply be further widened due to the presence of Hawfields Presbyterian Church, which includes a historic cemetery that includes former North Carolina Governors and other esteemed former local residents.
“The church has been a very willing partner. This intersection was widened most recently I think it was three years ago,” Stober indicated. “They’ve been a great partner in this. But any further widening will have to encroach into that cemetery. And that’s not desirable if we can find other ways to resolve and relieve the congestion and safety issues that are there right now. Why is this a City priority? To relieve congestion and increase safety. That’s always our paramount concern at the City with transportation projects in particular.”
“We want to provide a safe route to the schools, to Hawfields (Middle) and Garrett (Elementary), if we can,” The Planning Director added. “And we want to provide an outlet for regular traffic. In routing in freight traffic from the North Carolina Commerce Park off of Senator Scott Parkway, directly to the Trollingwood-Hawfields Road interchange (to the freeway). The intention of Lowe’s Boulevard Extension is for local traffic - for non-freight traffic. That’s its primary purpose. That’s really what we’re hoping to do here.”
Stober made clear that the project wouldn’t be a City of Mebane project. The project would be funded by the NCDOT, and probably wouldn’t be completed until later this decade at the very earliest, and quite possibly not until sometime in the early 2030s.
“I want to be clear that this is not a construction project. These are ideas. They are ideas that will become lines on map. They are not actionable construction projects. The City will not be pursuing immediate construction of this roadway, nor will we be immediately condemning any land to realize the project. We will probably pursue state funding for the project, but that is an extended timeline. Best-case scenario, if we pursue prioritization funds, it would be something in the neighborhood of seven or eight years from today. Likely it would be much longer.”
“The intention of this is to have an adopted plan,” Stober continued. “We do have reason to believe that this area will be developed. And without an adopted plan, we have no way of providing developers with guidance on where the roadways should go. That, frankly, makes me as Development Director a bit uncomfortable. We would like to have an adopted plan to work with the private development community to realize a road that benefits us all, and benefits the whole area.”
Devyn Lozzi, an official with Ramey Kemp and Associates, which assists the City of Mebane with numerous developmental plans and studies, made a presentation breaking down the varying options that the City has at its disposal to make this vital connection happen in the coming years.
The concept includes bicycle and pedestrian considerations in the form of an adjacent multi-use path running parallel to the extension, and would offer future transit possibilities if Mebane ever pursues bus or other transportation services for its residents.
“The corridor plan, the reason why we’re doing it is to start to develop some conceptual alternatives for this Lowe’s Boulevard Extension. They are preliminary plans, but they still help the City a lot,” Lozzi explained. “The plan will point out the bicycle and pedestrian paths, and also help the City hopefully get future funding from the state to make this connection a possibility.”