Alston Ave. widening could please more pedestrians, businesses | News

Alston Ave. widening could please more pedestrians, businesses

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The above video, created by the N.C. Department of Transportation, simulates what traffic on Alston Avenue would look like under previous plans to widen the road and create two travel lanes in each direction.

Few property owners and residents in East Durham have been happy with N.C. Department of Transportation plans to widen Alston Avenue into a four-lane divided highway. Many were especially troubled by the idea that it might have put Los Primos, the only grocery store near the neighborhoods just east of downtown, out of business.

But it looks like engineers from the N.C. DOT heeded requests from Durham's city council to make the design for widening a little more pedestrian-friendly, according to Mark Ahrendsen, director of transportation for the City of Durham. Ahrendsen told the council Thursday that the new N.C. DOT design also will make less of an impact on both Los Primos and the Durham Rescue Mission, two businesses that were destined to lose portions of their properties to accommodate the $25 million project.

Among the changes:

— The state will still widen Alston Avenue to accommodate four travel lanes. They will stripe the road to create four travel lanes (two in each direction) from the Durham Freeway to Main Street. But on the portion from Main Street north to Holloway Street, which passes through a more residential area, they'll stripe the road to create only one travel lane in each direction. With the rest of the widened road, they'll create bike lanes and parking spaces—as many as 120—on the sides of the road. The parking spots will create parking for local businesses, while also helping to slow traffic.

— The N.C. DOT has revised its traffic projections for that section of Alston Avenue, and with less traffic than originally expected, they will eliminate dedicated right-turn-only lanes, Ahrendsen said. This will shorten the distances pedestrians have to bridge to get across the road. It also creates a slight shift in the layout near the Main Street intersection, and will reduce the impact on both the Durham Rescue Mission and Los Primos properties, Ahrendsen said.

— Finally, the new design would shorten the length of left-turn lanes, specifically the length of the lane dedicated to drivers waiting to turn their vehicles left. The reduction means more median, and could mean more area for landscaping.

The N.C. DOT will begin acquiring rights on Alston Avenue for widening in September 2012, Ahrendsen said. Construction would begin in December 2014.

"This has been hard-fought," Councilwoman Diane Catotti said. "This is very good news."

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