Carrboro Transportation Forum is Thursday

The Town of Carrboro is holding a forum for the discussion of the Carrboro Downtown Transportation Study. This is a great chance for folks to hear about different options that the Town is looking at. Possibilities include limiting cars on Weaver Street, installing roundabouts on Main Street, bigger sidewalks and more on-street parking. Come check it out Thursday Dec. 2 at 6:30 at the Century Center.

Here's the invite on the Town website (www.townofcarrboro.com):

Please plan to attend a community forum on the draft Carrboro Downtown Transportation Study, to be held on Thursday, December 2 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in Century Hall of the Carrboro Century Center, located at the corner of Greensboro and Weaver streets in downtown Carrboro.

The Carrboro Downtown Transportation Study describes various ideas about how the transportation system can be improved to enhance the vibrancy of downtown Carrboro. The study evaluates ideas generated by Carrboro citizens during the "New Vision for Downtown Carrboro" charrette held in 2001. The forum will include a presentation by Roger Henderson of Kimley-Horn and Associates, the project manager for the study.

For more information, please contact Dale McKeel, Transportation Planner at 919-918-7329.

The Herald has an article on this today:
http://www.heraldsun.com/orange/10-549996.html

and so does the News:
http://www.chapelhillnews.com/news/story/1889035p-8220767c.html

Issues: 

Total votes: 132

Comments

I'm concerned about this idea that's gotten out there that if traffic is really bad, people will want to walk, bike, or take the bus. It's already pretty stressful to bike through downtown Carrboro (as the article points out). More traffic might push me to the bus, but it won't keep my on my bike.

I like the idea of focusing on pedestrians and cyclists first, and making it pleasant and easy for them to negotiate downtown, and then focusing on vehicle traffic second.

A friendlier foot and bike route across the Harris Teeter/Carr Mill parking lot would also help. Walking from the bus stop near Fitch into the grocery store means negotiating lots of traffic. Going through on a bike is even worse.

The proposal for main street seemed to lack this important point. If traffic is compressed into 2 lanes, won't the street level pollution increase due to longer wait times?

I've read the consultant's proposal and I think it addresses both of your issues. According to their studies, removing the traffic lights on Main Street /Weaver along with a roundabout at Franklin/Main and the reengineering of Rosemary/Main will make the traffic flow much smoother and will reduce slow downs. There is also a proposal to extend Roberson over to behind the Cats Cradle or all the way to Brewer.

There are 4 alternatives plans in this report. Tonight is your opportunity to come hear the presentation and share your concerns.

I attended the meeting last night. I'm a bicycle commuter so I am keen on making my commute safer. I looked over the huge maps A & B which were very helpful in trying to visualize what is being presented. I by no means can claim to understand everything after one meeting but some ideas I liked were;
A "Wooonerf" or pedestrian friendly, one way Weaver Street with diagonal parking. I like the idea of diagonal parking opposed to parallel because you can fit more spaces and it slows traffic down some. Roundabout, YES, I liked the song and I like the look and idea of them. Some proposed appear to be less likely than others, but where feasible they would be a great idea.
Just from my brief look over the two plans I felt like I was leaning more towards A, but I am open to a blending of the two.
The individuals presenting ideas about making larger roundabouts and space for possible inclusion in light rail hook-up when and if Chapel Hill North implements light rail? It wasn't on the table and sounds like a mighty expensive what if.
I left at 8:30 and people were still going.
What a great town Carrboro is though with great people, planning ahead like this. Look at Churton Street in Hillsborough if you want to see what types of things can happen to a town that won't plan ahead.

Pat, I also attended last night's meeting, and like you, was really impressed with all the ideas presented. I like the concept for Weaver Street, though I think they need to make sure there's room for bikes to travel in both directions. Obviously bikes can and will go in the same direction as traffic, but I'm sure cyclists will also go east, and I think actually planning for this makes sense.

The traffic circles seem like a great idea, especially in front of Carr Mill Mall at Main/Roberson. But I think this will work primarily if Roberson is extended--that was probably the biggest idea out there, and certainly one of the most interesting.

I'd really like to see the town extend the bike lane/foot path along the railroad tracks behind Harris Teeter, to North Greensboro near Southern States. Terri Buckner also mentioned it could be extended to Estes. This would solve a lot of problems for folks who just need to get through/by downtown Carrboro on foot or bike, and would also make for quick access to downtown. This area wasn't part of the study area, but I don't see why this couldn't be incorporated into the plan either.

Pat Day wrote:"What a great town Carrboro is though with great people, planning ahead like this. "

Darlas Starr wrote: "Criminals run the Carrtocracy and innocent tax payers support their crimes."

This is a little late, but some may still be interested in a report on Thursday night's meeting with the consultant on the downtown traffic study. As Pat references, two options were proposed with the expectation that the final plan will contain some of both options.

Option A is the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" plan. This plan fixes some problems, such as flow at Weaver/East Main/Roberson with low-impact solutions such as retiming the lights, removing some lights, widens sidewalks, repaints roads and bike lanes. The most radical suggestion (which is not low impact) adds roundabouts at Franklin/Main/Brewer, Rosemary/East Main, and Jones Ferry/Main. It also proposes extending Roberson to 1) behind the Art Center or 2) to Brewer Lane (the RR tracks would run inside the road).

Option B includes everything from A and adds a proposal to make Weaver Street one way. The other big idea was restructuring the Rosemary/East Main intersection to a right angle connection. There were also some discussion of making the Roberson one way. Both plans include additional street parking and at least two parking decks.

While the majority of those present supported the roundabout plan, a large handful were skeptical (including me). The models shown one car/one pedestrian or bicyclist entering an intersection at a time rather than how this would function during heavy traffic. We were encouraged to go observe a roundabout recently added at NC State.

The re-engineering of the Rosemary/East Main intersection was also controversial because it might require 'taking' private land and loss of retail parking space for that lot owner.

The idea Joan refers to (making a bike/pedestrian path along the RR from Southern States over to East Main) is one of my old foot paths. Someone else told me that going out to Estes would not be feasible because of the terrain. My personal opinion is that North Greensboro needs more attention than was provided in either of the consultant's options, but if that wasn't part of the scope of the consultant's work, then we need to find ways to move bicyclists (especially) off N. Greensboro for their own safety.

On a historical note, the suggestions to make Weaver Street one way and to extend Roberson have been bandied about since the early 1980s. The merchants at Carr Mill don't endorse making Weaver St one way, but there seemed to be much more acceptance of extending Roberson than in previous discussions.

The consultant will take the comments heard during the public hearing and those provided by the advisory boards and make a formal proposal to the Board of Alderman in January.

Terri, that's an interesting point you make about N. Greensboro not being in the study plan, because I did see a map that showed the study area including further north on North Greensboro, even though it wasn't actually addressed in the consultant's plan. It felt a bit like everyone was giving up on North Greensboro, even though, via Estes and further along Greensboro, many Carrboro residents travel that way to get to downtown.

I'm amazed that I'm amazed at anything from Carrboro government, but I am.

We're going to sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of dollars so that we can clog up Smith Level Road our own way?

That high school is going to need a lot of car access, at busy times of day. Parents around here are able and willing to sit in traffic for a long time for school-related stuff. I myself can't believe how many people refuse to have their kids just ride the school bus; but they will make things bad all the way to Frank Porter Graham and Hwy 54 if the roads won't accommodate them.

Please, Carrboro, take the state money and do it their way. Smith Level Road is a significant artery, and it's about to get a lot busier with development at both ends of it, what with folks like Duncan moving south and staying involved up here. If you want to keep the cars out of town, there are other ways to do it -- parking. But please please take the DOT money.

Again, sorry, but after being "loathed" and told that I did things that I didn't, I'm not much for exchange here. This is more like a letter to bloggerdom.

Since you're not interested in a respone from us here, why did you feel compelled to come and write this, Jeff?

Please allow us to reciprocate in kind and ignore you back.

When I read the options Carrboro has for dealing with Smith Level Road improvements, my first thought was that Carrboro should go ahead with the DOT plan; however, I took a ride down there to see for myself and I think Carrboro should stick to its guns. The 15/501 improvements are adequate for handling Chatham traffic into town, and, personally, I think Smith Level Rd. would really be quite adequate if it looked like North Greensboro or Ephesus Church Road (a comparable road in my mind). What's in place now to handle FPG traffic seems fine, (although, I have to admit I've never been there in the morning). With the addition of the High School, I think a wide road (bicycle lanes) with turn lanes and sidewalks can handle current and future needs. Students who live in the Culbreth area will be walking (or riding bikes) to school; so, you don't want to encourage fast traffic with four lanes. You want the speed limit low, and I think a car accident slows things down, no matter what the width of the road. Then, there are little things, like what would happen to the Carolina Dialysis Center if we go 4 lanes and median strip? Would we have to tear it down?
Unlike Jeff, I don't think this is a case of Carrboro closing its eyes to reality and being unreasonable. I think it's a case of Carrboro asking for only what it needs
As far as I can tell, (until recently) there had never been a firm or publicly stated DOT Moving Ahead! policy that said Moving Ahead! will not pay for the acquisition of right of way for sidewalks. As a member of the Homestead and High School Rd. Safety Task Force that is working on getting sidewalks along Homestead Road so that pedestrians can walk to CHHS, I can tell you that DOT has been at these Task Force meetings all along. I only once heard them mention that there might be ‘right of way constraints', but they never voiced any out right objection to paying for acquisition of right of way for sidewalks until this year. These meetings have been going on since April 2004 and only in February 2005 did Jim Hunsinger from DOT explain that DOT has no history of Moving Ahead! paying for acquisition of right of way associated with sidewalks and that they will not start paying now. (Needless to say, the sidewalk along Homestead Rd. that all planners in the county thought would be constructed this year, is essentially dead now.)
So where does that leave Carrboro and Smith Level Road? Carrboro needs to get this in mediation. It's silly for DOT to offer only two choices.
One thing I'm not clear on: What will Moving Ahead! pay for on Smith Level? Not acquisition of land for sidewalks. What about right of way for bike lanes? Any of actual physical construction cost of sidewalks?

Oops--I was just on Ephesus Church Road. Let me clarify that I'm talking about the 'good' part of Ephesus Church Road (between the school and the county line). Other parts of the road are abysmal.

The other thing to remember about Smith Level is that it runs through the watershed. Last week when Christine Todd Whitman (Republican, ex-EPA director) was interviewed on the State of Things, she listed water quality as the biggest environment crises facing our country. She went on to clarify that the problem wasn't coming from large corporations as much as over development, lawn chemicals, stormwater runoff, etc.

Also, Smith Level was and still kind of is a country road. With all the construction traffic on 15-501 it's been used more and more as a thoroughfare over the past year, and not surprisingly, it's getting more dangerous. Our police service comes from the Orange County Sheriff; one patrol officer for a relatively large area. If Smith Level becomes an artery between Chatham and the university, our one patrol officer will spend most of the time monitoring traffic.

If any alderman are reading this, my vote is to add a left turn lane onto Rock Haven from the south and a right turn from the north along with sidewalks that serve both pedestrians and bicyclists (like Franklin St).

Mary is correct in her characterization of Moving Ahead's murky policy regarding funding of right-of-way acquisition. It should be noted, however, that in working to solve the Homestead/High-School pedestrian problems, Chuck Edwards, NCDOT District Engineer, stated specifically that DOT WOULD fund the right-of-way necessary to implement the project. We have forwarded documentation of the commitments made by Mr. Edwards to NCDOT, and are working to attempt to get the project back on schedule as promised. We'll keep ya posted (Mary, you should get a more in-depth update from me tomorrow).

Smith Level is a much longer-term issue. This thing has been working it's way through the TIP process in some form for many years. When the project was funded (2?, 3? 4?) years ago, and the design process began, Carrboro was alarmed at the scope originally proposed--A 5-lane cross-section extending beyond Ray Road. We then began a process of negotiation to arrive at a design that would serve local traffic, and preserve the essentially rural character of the road beyond the Town's limits--In short, to scale back the proposal as a TIP project.

What we expressly did not wish to do was to encourage the use of Smith Level as a primary conduit to Chatham County, and commuter attractor. As a result, discussions centered around arriving at scaling the proposal back, as a TIP project, to address primarily, pedestrian and bicycle safety issues within the confines of an essentially local thoroughfare. Given NCDOT's classification of Smith level as a 'minor arterial, NOT of regional significance', this seemed entirely reasonable, and it appeared for quite some time, that this was the 'road' on which we were proceeding.

The notion of offering a scaled-back project only under the aegis of Moving Ahead, only emerged in January. The position of NCDOT has emerged that the only way that it would remain a TIP project is for the Town to accede to their preffered cross section. Their rationale being that they view Smith level as a corridor to connect residential centers in Chatham, with 'employment centers' in southern Orange(i.e. UNC) and would therefore require a larger scope. This is directly counter to the policy position that the Town has held, and, is in my view, inconsistent with their own classification. It has long been the Town's position that the improvements to 15-501 were designed to serve this purpose, and that 15-501 is the appropriate corridor for such. Recent events have made this tension more acute, and in my view, the Town's position more urgent---Namely, that it is of paramount importance that we not allow our street network---most importantly, downtown---to become the 'dump-funnel' for commuter traffic that will be generated by Chatham's out-of-control development frenzy (anybody who thinks we're moving too fast in the transition area should check out this sprawl-fest--12,000 new units approved!). To simply spend NCDOT funds just because they're there on a project that could damage our infrastructure to serve ill-conceived land-use elsewhere just doesn't seem to be wise planning strategy. As well, to commit the Town to an open-ended cost for right-of-way acquisition (current opening estimates begin at $300,000,and up) to improve a situation, that while less-than desireable, is far from critical, seems like a poor use of limited resources. The proposal has been made that we consider using Sidewalk Bond funds to locally address some of the more acute needs on a smaller scale than either proposal, which seems like a reasonable notion to explore, and does not subject the Town to an open-ended obligation. That's why, while the jury's still out, my inclination as of now, is to put this thing out of it's misery and concentrate on more acute needs, and more productive opportunities elsewhere.

Cheers,
Alex

Cheers,
Alex

Jeff, I read the HS this morning. Were you partly alluding to the proposed connector street between North Greensboro and LLoyd? What kind of neighborhood will this road disrupt? Also, what part of North Greensboro will they slim and why? (I wish the 5 page consultant's report were on the town website.)

Jeff,
What connector roads has Carrboro pushed through residential streets?

Thanks for the civility.

It's interesting that the Board that pushes connector roads through almost any residential street wants to constrain a connector effect on an existing artery that is about to receive a lot more flow.

When that high school opens, if the traffic is a mess, we will hear the age-old grumbling about how government fails to plan for such things.

Regarding the part of Smith Level Rd. in the reservoir watershed. (1) Maybe a Finley-Golf-Course-Road model -- annoyingly slow speed limits -- is an option. But this SLR long country road is very different from that or other suggested comparisons. (2) The left-hand turn from 15-501 to Highway 54 is already heavily used (the bottleneck alternative for the pass-through Smith-Level traffic). (3) So cars will go on Smith Level from Chatham anyway, and if they go slower, they're going to drip more gunk onto the road. (I know, extra lanes restrict water absorption; that's true, but not as deep as the core of the earth; water can be absorbed at a certain depth under roads, and there will not be much housing development there in the watershed.)

Mary,

Mike Nelson & Alex Z could answer better than I....

Some examples are south Laurel, in a one-way loop to feed new development; Barrington Hills (stalled); Wexford, where better Carrboro planning could have turned homes away from the connector; plans for west & east of Winmore through existing neighborhoods; longstanding desires to do this to Lloyd St.; more recently, taking a large portion of little, expensive-land MLK Park for a connector; .... This list includes Carrboro's poorest and richest neighborhoods and a lot in-between, and is racially diverse.

I've discussed connectors a lot in the past. Basically, one can have pedestrian & bicycle connectivity without bringing outside through-traffic onto residential streets not designed for it, dangerously exposed in some cases. Many European towns know this and actually block roads like Foy did his in Chapel Hill; American planning authorities are catching on, too. But some people in Carrboro will do almost anything to spite cul-de-sacs, with that as the driving force before any other concerns (have enough conversations about this, and you'll hear the same).

Jeff

Jeff,
I'm pro-connectivity. A stub out should be a red flag to homeowners about future plans. Why do homeowners feel like they have a legal right never to be connected to new development or to have things change?
I would knock Wexford/Cates Farm off the list of 'connector' roads. Those speed bumps disqualify it.

Mary--in case you haven't seen it, the consultant's report (to be discussed tonight) is available at:
http://www.townofcarrboro.org/boa/Agendas/2005/03_15_2005_D1A.pdf

 

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