Traffic impact from Chapel Hill road projects nearing end

From staff reportsJuly 19, 2013 


Traffic on Weaver Dairy Road slows as it backs up in this 2011 file photo of the road project. In this photo, workers install new curbing further out from the existing sidewalk.


— Construction projects underway this summer will bring infrastructure benefits to the town valued at more than $11 million, after the dust clears.

“Although most projects have been in planning for several years, they are a nuisance when they occur at once,” Town Manager Roger Stancil said in a news release. “The good news is that we expect most major traffic impacts to end after August.”

Several projects will continue after the summer, but the major traffic impacts will have concluded. Construction in Chapel Hill typically is planned during summertime when UNC and the public schools are not in session.

Here are the project updates

•  South Columbia Street Widening Project: This N.C. Department of Transportation project is progressing on schedule. The work will widen a 0.8-mile section of N.C. 86/South Columbia Street to include a center turn lane and bus pullouts, improving safety and the flow of traffic in the area. Sidewalks and bike lanes will be added to both sides of the road, improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists and maintaining the character of Chapel Hill. The $4.6 million project began in November 2012 and is expected to be completed by July 2014. This summer, traffic has been aligned one-way northbound on South Columbia Street from Fordham Boulevard toward Manning Drive. Outbound traffic has been detoured onto Manning Drive. This one-way traffic alignment will end when most UNC students return in late August.

•  Smith Level Road Widening Project: This N.C. DOT project is progressing on schedule. The work will improve a section of Smith Level Road in Carrboro. The section of highway is between Rock Haven Road and the bridge over Morgan Creek south of N.C. 54. Crews are widening this section of Smith Level Road to include bike lanes, sidewalks and turn lanes with a center median. A roundabout is planned for the intersection of Rock Haven Road and Smith Level Road. Construction is estimated to be complete in June 2014. A $4.9 million contract was awarded to Yates Construction Co. Inc.

•  Culbreth Road Closure for Trail Project: This Town of Chapel Hill project will not be completed by the beginning of the school year, as setbacks have occurred due to heavy rains and issues underground. However, the road will be reopened with construction flagmen when the public schools are back in session and passable to traffic, including public school and Chapel Hill Transit buses.

The $1.46 million project will install a concrete tunnel under Culbreth Road to connect with the combined Fan Branch Morgan Creek Trails. The result will be the longest paved trail system in Orange County that will allow unbroken travel from the Southbridge neighborhood to the Southern Community Park. The trail will also serve Southern Village and Scroggs Elementary School. A spur trail provides access to Merritt’s Pasture.

A large coordination effort supported the goal to re-open the road as soon as possible. This effort has involved the contractor, the Town of Chapel Hill (including Chapel Hill Police, Chapel Hill Transit, Chapel Hill Fire, Parks and Recreation and Public Works), and Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

• East Cameron Project: The OWASA/UNC project is progressing on schedule and is expected to be completed by mid-August. Crews are installing a single water main to replace three 60- to 85-year-old water mains along approximately 800 feet of East Cameron Avenue between Columbia Street and Memorial Hall. The project will also install two new UNC chilled water mains in this same area of East Cameron Avenue. OWASA and UNC are collaborating on this work.

•  Weaver Dairy Road Project: This N.C. DOT project is expected to be completed this summer. It will enhance and extend the section of Weaver Dairy Road between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Erwin Road. The expected cost of the project is about $10 million. Construction began in October 2010. For details, go to

Planning for these projects has been taken seriously, town officials said in the release.

Town staff collaborated with N.C. DOT staff to condense a six-month South Columbia Street Widening Project into three months (summer only). Stancil formed an Incident Management Team that monitors how the projects are affecting residents and visitors to make adjustments. The team meets weekly.

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