Following the success of Hillsborough Street's recent overhaul, the Raleigh City Council voted April 1 to fund similar streetscape improvements on the Interstate 440 Beltline.
The $936.2 million project, set to begin construction in 2021, will narrow the six-lane freeway to one lane in each direction. The other lanes will be converted into tree-lined sidewalks and bike lanes while leaving room for buses on the shoulder.
"The Beltline has an outdated design that's increasingly at odds with our plans for a walkable, multi-modal urban core," Mayor Nancy McFarlane said.
Councilman Russ Stephenson said he's particularly excited about the new Beltline. "Imagine going to Crabtree Valley Mall, then taking a leisurely stroll across Glenwood Avenue and down the Beltline to eat at North Hills," he said, adding that residents could also enjoy sidewalk dining at the 73 new mixed-use apartment developments fronting I-440.
Those apartment complexes, which each have a mandatory rooftop community garden and backyard cottage, are encouraged under Raleigh's new development code.
The plan also takes aim at the Beltline's unattractive overpasses and exit ramps. Those will be demolished and replaced with five-lane roundabouts. "We think this innovative new design will be quite popular with drivers once they've read our 300-page handbook," transportation planning manager Eric Lamb said.
The ambitious project will likely be funded by a proposed 10 percent sales tax increase, but the council is also considering state-of-the-art tolling gantries, which would automatically deduct $20 from the driver's savings account. "They'll use open source software, putting Raleigh on the cutting edge of highway tolling," tweeted Councilman Bonner Gaylord.
More improvements are planned for the decades and centuries to come. Phase two of the plan calls for a light rail line through the Beltline's median and a Yonkers Road "destination park" on the current site of the Men's Club.