Council to consider final Fire Tower and Portertown plan
By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector
Thursday, November 9, 2017
The City Council is expected to consider the finalized version of a N.C. Department of Transportation plan to widen and improve Fire Tower and Portertown roads at its scheduled meeting tonight.
Officials with the transportation department are expected seek a resolution of support for the project, which will widen the roads to four lanes with a raised median from Charles Boulevard to 10th Street. The project also will reconfigure several major intersections to reduce congestion and traffic accidents on the roadways.
The project is expected to take up to 20 properties and impact many more in the residential area. It has been controversial with some residents, especially its proposal to eliminate left turns out of subdivisions and homes along the route. It also eliminates left turns at Fire Tower Road’s intersections with Charles and Arlington boulevards by rerouting traffic onto other streets.
The plan also includes installing two multi-lane roundabouts at Portertown and Eastern Pines roads and Portertown and Fire Tower and new bridging at Hardee Creek. It also pomises bicycle and pedestrian improvements.
DOT hosted a public input meeting in September 2016 that prompted designers to investigate solutions to congestion at the intersections. On Feb. 9, the council agreed that expanding the original widening project to include alterations to the intersections would be in the best interest of the city. A version of the DOT’s plan for the road was revealed to the public at an input meeting on July 31 at Alice Keene Park.
For funding purposes, the enterprise is made up of two projects: Project U-5785, which involves widening a .6-mile stretch of Fire Tower from Charles Boulevard to 14th Street and Project U-5870, which involves widening Fire Tower to Portertown Road then widening Portertown Road to 10th Street, a distance of 2.2 miles.
Traffic on Arlington would be directed to a new road that would run between Basil’s Restaurant on Fire Tower and Arlington’s intersection with Turnbury Lane. At Charles Boulevard, traffic would travel to a reconfigured road that runs between Bells Fork Road’s intersection with Charles and Fire Tower’s intersection with Kittrell Road.
Currently, a vehicle attempting to make a left turn at either intersection has an average wait time of 82 seconds according to Steve Hamilton, division traffic engineer. Even if additional left turn lanes are added at each intersection, it’s estimated by 2029 a vehicle could wait about five minutes to make a left turn, he said.
Only allowing through-traffic and right turns at each intersection reduces the number of signal phases needed to move traffic, which reduces wait time, Hamilton said. There also will be shorter wait times at the intersections dedicated to left turns because they too will require fewer phases.
After reviewing the input from the last meeting, and meeting with several concerned business and homeowners in the area, the department is set to present its final recommendation to council members. Following this presentation, the council could vote on a resolution of support for the finalized design plan.
Also at the meeting, the council will be presented a schematic design of Westpointe Village Park, which the Recreation and Parks Department has been holding meetings on since March. The department will present its proposed master plan for the park, and receive feedback from council members.
The meetings will be at 6 p.m. in the City Council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 200 W. Fifth St. The meetings also includes a public comment period. It is the first meeting since Tuesday’s election, however new council members will not take office until December.
Contact Seth Gulledge at firstname.lastname@example.org and 329-9579.
Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hza5TTcCW1c for animation illustrating the project.
Visit https://www.ncdot.gov/projects/FireTowerPortertownWidening/ for maps and other details.