A project to lessen traffic congestion at the intersection of N.C. 55 and Avent Ferry Road is getting the green light now that Town officials have commitments for more than $1 million in state funding.
The Town and the state Department of Transportation (NCDOT) will work out how to move forward on design of new lanes and medians as well as signal light changes at the intersection.
Within a couple of weeks, Town officials hope to know about when construction could start and how long it will take.
“We are now working with the state to determine the most cost-effective and expeditious schedule,” Town Manager Charles Simmons said July 18.
State funding is a combination of legislative appropriations and DOT spot safety project funds. Simmons said that state Sen. Tamara Barringer, Senate leader Phil Berger, state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam and Transportation Secretary Tony Tata were instrumental in securing funds for nearly two-thirds of the estimated $1.6 million cost.
Approximately $600,000 in Town funds for the intersection project are included in an estimated $19 million that the Town will borrow for a group of high priority projects. The total includes $2.4 million for a second project that should help traffic flow on Avent Ferry Road – extension of Main Street westward to Piney Grove Wilbon Road.
The Town Council will vote in early September on how to borrow the money, most likely by selling municipal bonds. No property tax increase will be needed for the projects, which include a multi-sports stadium and a new police station.
Planned changes to the N.C. 55 / Avent Ferry Road intersection are designed to accomplish several things, especially to speed left turns from Avent Ferry Road during the morning rush and right turns onto it in the afternoon.
With the redesign, traffic turning left onto northbound N.C. 55 will get more green light time. To lessen afternoon backups, a new “free flow” lane will allow southbound highway traffic turning right onto Avent Ferry Road to avoid stopping at the intersection.
To improve the most popular traffic movements, changes to other movements will be needed. For example, a motorist driving from Holly Springs High School en route to downtown would turn right onto N.C. 55 and make a U-turn to reach Avent Ferry Road on the other side of the bypass.
N.C. 55 and Avent Ferry Road are part of the state transportation system. Responsibility for maintenance ultimately lies with the Department of Transportation. But with statewide needs far exceeding available funding, Holly Springs and other towns in fast-developing areas are assuming a greater role in road funding out of necessity.
The N.C. 55 / Avent Ferry intersection redesign was one of several alternatives that were evaluated during a study that the Town and DOT commissioned in late 2013. Since that time, Town officials have worked with state legislators and DOT officials to find the money for the redesign. Word on the final piece of state funding came this month.
“I really don’t think that would have happened without the work of … certainly the mayor, who’s been on the phone burning up the lines,” Simmons told the Town Council July 15 in reference to Mayor Dick Sears’ lobbying efforts.
Simmons also noted how closely the Town’s Engineering Department has worked with DOT to explain Holly Springs’ transportation needs to state officials.
“When we make the case for funding,” he said, “they understand and are working with us as partners.”