Second Avenue, once a major thoroughfare, may see major changes

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SILER CITY — A major street in Siler City may be going on a “road diet.”

Second Avenue, once a major highway through central North Carolina as part of old U.S. Hwy. 421, is the subject of a Triangle Area Rural Planning Organization (TARPO) corridor study. The town has received a N.C. Dept. of Transportation grant for the study, which will help town officials develop what’s described as “a new guiding vision” for the road’s future — much of that based on community input.

Siler City contributed 10% of the roughly $80,000 cost for the study.

Widely distributed online questionnaires and a series of on-site workshops, public and focus group meetings, completed last week, have been a part of the project, according to Siler City Planning and Community Development Director Jack Meadows. The project is now in the “recommendations” phase; a draft report will be presented sometime in June. The final report will provide options and associated costs for alternatives for the road based on suggestions from the community.

“It’s community-driven,” Meadows said. “Consultants are leading the way, but there are parameters — these are things you wouldn’t want to do, here are things you might want to do … they’ll steer you in the right direction based on the best practices of hundreds of studies like this they’ve done before.”

Among the considerations: Second Avenue has the capacity for 22,000 cars per day, but current volume is 7,900 — hence the term “road diet,” indicating the road was designed for much heavier traffic and is a good candidate for re-purposing.

Preliminary results so far focus on lack of crosswalks on Second Avenue — making it difficult for pedestrians to navigate — the need for better lighting, a desire by those responding to surveys to make Second Avenue “feel more like downtown,” and the fact that curb cuts and intersection design make the corridor confusing for drivers and unsafe for cyclists.

Improvement opportunities include appearance and beautification enhancements, wayfinding tools and more parking.

Second Avenue was chosen for the study, Meadows said, as a part of a comprehensive transportation plan. U.S. Hwy. 64 has already been studied, and because Siler City wasn’t experiencing major transportation issues — traffic congestion or crashes — the town chose to look at Second Avenue because of its rich history, as well as its past as a heavily trafficked street.

Next steps include cost estimates for alternatives broken into phases.

“There’s no implementation money now,” Meadows said, “but the town and DOT will look for opportunities to seek funding.”

Those could include grants — similar to the grant which helped fund Pittsboro’s traffic circle work last year — and even bond issues.

The engineering firm working on the project is Stantec, which has helped the City of Sanford with some of its downtown beautification improvements.

For more information, go to www.tarpo.org/2ndave.

Bill Horner III can be reached at bhorner3@chathamnr.com or @billthethird.

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