Transportation e-Forum

A local group called Citizen Action for Responsible Roads (CARR) has conducted an "e-forum" for the Chapel Hill Town Council and Mayoral races. They e-mailed the candidates and published their responses online.

Here are the questions, check out their website to see the candidates' responses.

1. Explain why you support or oppose keeping Carolina North's automobile traffic off of Weaver Dairy Road, Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, and/or I-40.

2. Where should automobile entrances to Carolina North be located?

3. Describe why you support or oppose an automobile connector road between Larkspur and Eubanks Road.

4. What is your opinion of council's decision not to expand Weaver Dairy Road?

5. What's your philosophy in deciding where future regional transportation corridors should be located?

6. What's your position on UNC's plan to put 17,000 parking spaces at Carolina North?

7. What action should council take should NCDOT continue to drag out the improvements that have been approved for S. Columbia Street?

8. What kind of improvements are needed for Estes Drive Extension?

Regardless of whether we would agree on what the right answers are, these are certainly good questions.



In the answers that most candidates gave to #8, what kind of improvements are needed for Estes, most were saying they would try to work with Carrboro to add bike lanes and sidewalks for the entire length. Specifically, do any candidates for Carrboro or Chapel Hill know what type of cooperation is needed for those types of improvements to occur soon?

Didn't have time to read it all. First impressions: Ed sees a big picture, and knows his stuff. Robin--- oy vey! Laurin, I worry about a possible narrow focus on new northern neighborhoods. Kleinschmidt seems reasonable. Raymond, I like your courageous promotion of the rail corridor (Good luck with the 'neighborhood protectionists'-- of which you are one?)

I think it may be a long time before anyone figures out what to do with Estes Drive Ext.

Given the emphasis of the geographic area of the questions, the focus can appear to be Northern neighborhoods. I believe that Weaver Dairy Road, the road that CARR successsfully worked on to reduce its lanes from five to three, and that is the subject of questions in this questionnaire, is located in the Northern Section of Town. I guess I haven't published to everyone, in another venue, all of my hours working with Southern Village and other more southern neighborhoods, and neighborhoods in general! in my hours and hours on the Transportation Board, studying traffic nuances, road patterns, possible connections, lanes, etc. in ALL parts of town.

Here's one you can take to the bank:

"I am willing to discuss specifics, but I don't plan to commit myself to anything specific" - Ed Harrison

The full quote is "I am willing to discuss specifics, but I don't plan to commit myself to anything specific, because it's sort of early to make that determination, which should be decided after a rational and lengthy environmental and engineering analysis. Front and center in the environmental analysis should be the long-term impact on our neighborhoods." Amazing how the full statement provides context and meaning.

Laurin, poor post on my part. I need to learn to elaborate. I didn't mean that I have questions about your concern for transportation issues in other parts of town. My concerns are about where you stand on alternative modes of transportation—specifically light rail from Eubanks to UNC.

Because you are such a strong advocate for neighborhood protection, I was concerned about how you would respond to neighborhoods such as Larkspur which would be most impacted by possible future use of the existing rail corridor. But it seems that you and most candidates are against this light rail on the basis of neighborhood concerns about impact. (Is this a correct assessment? I tried to read the survey again, but it's a hard read this late.)

Is light rail on existing track from Eubanks to UNC a possibility? I'm confused. Was a feasibility study done? I'm working on the assumption that light rail along this corridor yields a net gain for the environment--- yes? no? eventually?

You've made it abundantly clear on this site and in the other media that you neither support nor like Ed Harrison. And I've publicly expressed my support for him. So now that the appropriate disclaimers have been made I'd like to say that your use of a partial statement, out of context as Terri has pointed out, is disappointing. Given the strong moral stances you've taken on many issues I'm surprised that you would play so loose with the "rules" in what would appear to be a self-serving effort. You appear to have a hidden agenda here that is not obvious to some of us.

Engaging in politics doesn't develop character, it reveals it.

Dan, when others attacked Bill Thorpe, you labeled it a
"smear tactic". When you constantly attack Ed Harrison,
in this case unfairly by pulling a partial quote out of context,
I'll label you a smearer. I for one am sick of your constant
attacks on someone who has devoted a huge amount of
effort and energy in working hard for our town.

Mark Shields - political guy - "Like Sports, Politics Doesn't Develop Character, It Reveals It."

John Wooden - B'ball Coach
"Sports do not build character. They reveal it".

I guess for some, politics (or posting), is sport.

Joe, I do apologize for thinking it was obvious that I was taking Ed's statement out of context to make a point. Sometimes I forget how touchy OPers can be.

Actually, George, I do like Ed. He'll tell you that we've had many pleasant conversations about town business and other matters. But his work on the Council is interfering with our friendship. I have a particular problem with his lack of backbone and his exaggerations. Consider Ed's claims in his guest column in this morning's Herald.

Ed: "I was the first town council member ever to propose these protections" [referring to intermittent streams]

Fact: from town minutes 11/08/1993

Council Member Andresen inquired whether the Council wished to pursue the matter of perennial and intermittent stream definitions further... She suggested that the public hearing also consider the addition of setbacks for intermittent stream

There are many other discussions of this before Ed joined the Council, usually involving Andresen (McClintock), Brown, or Chilton. Note that Ed did not have to say "ever" but he does have a tendency to overstate his role.

Ed: "I've led the way on getting a transit center as part of our downtown development on Parking Lot Two."

Fact: There is no transit center under consideration in the current negotiations with RAM. It is one of many options for consideration in the next phase but it remains controversial and is far from settled. Ed's saying he's led the way on getting a transit center implies that it is a done deal and is at best an attempt to mislead the voters.

Ed: "Before my council service I originated what is currently the most significant bicycle and pedestrian project on this side of the Triangle."

Fact: Leaving aside whether or not he "originated" this project before he got on the Council, the fact remains that in four years on the Council he has not secured funding for it. His statement misleads voters by implying a degree of success that is not there. He doesn't tell us it's unfunded, he doesn't tell us it's mostly in Durham (Old Chapel Hill Road), and he doesn't tell us it's a NIMBY issue for him personally. What's more, bike and ped are touted as his signature areas. What does it tell us that he has to reach back to before he joined the council to find an example of success, and an unfunded example at that?

Just to address the value of the bike/ped project: At a recent Council meeting, the Old CH/Durham Road project was endorsed (I wish I was as good as the rest of you in grabbing the links) and the staff report indicated there is funding, though not for the entire stretch into Durham. Council discussed how to prioritize the various components to match the available funding. My recollection is that construction will start in 2009.

The stretch in Chapel Hill extends from Scarlette Drive to the Town limits, which is over one mile. For those of us who live out here, even getting a few feet of this project built will be a big deal. Because of the road pattern out here, many of us are isolated and unable to travel except by car.

Being able to walk over the I-40 bridge will connect us to Patterson Place, Githens Middle School (a middle school that serves Chapel Hill residents) and our friends in Five Oaks. Just being able to walk down Old Durham Road to the D bus stop will be huge.

I can't help but think if the project extended into Carrboro, rather than Durham, it would be viewed in a more positive light. As residents of both Chapel Hill and Durham, we value connections to any and all of our neighbors.


Here's the proposed resolution from Monday. Don't know if any modifications were made at the meeting.

WHEREAS, the Town of Chapel Hill has agreed to participate in the development of the Old Durham-Chapel Hill Road Bicycle and Pedestrian Feasibility Study; and

WHEREAS, the work program for the project calls for a final study to be received by the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Transportation Advisory Committee Metropolitan Planning Organization; and

WHEREAS, the Town Council has provided opportunities for citizens and for Town boards and commissions to review the draft study;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the Town of Chapel Hill that the Council endorses the recommendations of the Study and supports Option 1 for implementation of the project.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Council requests the Durham-Chapel-Hill-Carrboro Transportation Advisory Committee to seek additional funds for the project.

It's hard to see Ed's great contribution here. But I'm not disagreeing with the value of this project. I'm just asking the question any voter should ask of an official seeking re-election: what have you done for me lately?

BTW, another accomplishment Ed touts is his work on Patterson Place (see his page on the town web site). Has anyone been to Patterson Place? It's a pedestrian's nightmare with buildings strung out across sprawling parking lots. Far worse than Southpoint which at least does get you walking once you get there.

My first comment on the thread was a bit flip-- sorry about that.
In reference to exploring ways to use the rail corridor from Eubanks to UNC: I understand the concerns that citizens have about the impact of rail on their neighborhoods; however, I hope that all candidates will be open to exploring the use of this corridor. I appreciate WillR's willingness to explore transit options on this corridor. I appreciate his commitment to finding transit solutions that are a win for the environment and for neighborhoods. I believe that Will is the kind of neighborhood advocate who has everyone's best interests in mind. I would trust Will to do the research and to make sound transit decisions.

Mary, I agree with you about Will. He's obviously an excellent researcher. Also not one to shy away from speaking his mind and certainly not one to defer to the bureaucrats. People who've gotten to know him through the campaign have commented that they were surprised how easy-going he is as well as easy to talk with.

I know the issue of bike lanes on Estes Dr. Ext. has come up before -- is that a state-maintained road?

Yes, Estes Dr. Ext. is a state road - which has slowed down the pace of the improvements there since the state has their own standards for bike lanes.

Dan Coleman,
You stated regarding Ed Harrison "Fact: Leaving aside whether or not he “originated” this project before he got on the Council, the fact remains that in four years on the Council he has not secured funding for it. His statement misleads voters by implying a degree of success that is not there. He doesn't tell us it's unfunded, he doesn't tell us it's mostly in Durham (Old Chapel Hill Road), and he doesn't tell us it's a NIMBY issue for him personally. What's more, bike and ped are touted as his signature areas. What does it tell us that he has to reach back to before he joined the council to find an example of success, and an unfunded example at that?"

If funding is the definition of success then do we hold the whole Council responsible for the fact that the South Columbia Street improvements haven't been made? Or that the Weaver Dairy Road improvements haven't been made? You've been around long enough to know that getting transportation-related projects done in this area is a long, drawn-out process: first getting a project onto the priority list, next getting it approved, and then getting it funded. I know that you know this but you elected to focus on the one aspect that isn't yet complete. You also neglected to mention that about 75% of the funding has been secured (a fact that I have no doubt you are also aware of) and that while much of this project will be in Durham, it will still improve sections of Chapel Hill Road in CH as well.
When you chose to use only those facts that serve your purpose and ignore others, your credibility is greatly diminished. Dan, I admire many of your moral stances on issues such as represented by your petition to the local governments regarding the questionable positions of our federal govenment. But your smear campaign against Ed Harrison(and I agree with Joe Capowski that it is indeed such) makes me wonder whether those who can, serve, and those who can't, criticize.

Well, George, when you're a fan then an airing of the record may indeed seem like a smear campaign. Neither you nor any of the several others who have written in support of Ed have been able to name any of his accomplishments. Not surprising when he fails to do so himself.

The reference to funding was not to overstate the importance of that [essential] element in the process. it was to emphasize what a stretch it was for Ed to include this as one of only three items he named to justify his re-election. To reiterate, those items were: introducing intermittent stream protection (cribbed from Julie McClintock among others), "getting" a transit center (what we call "vaporware" in my field), and Old Chapel Hill Road (which he himself acknowledges as work done before his Council term).

Let's look more closely at this issue of intermittent streams. Did you know that Ed objected to and blocked the Morgan Creek neighborhood's effort to have an intermittent stream identified. The neighbors had to hire Seth Riece who proved that the stream was there and also aided the council in strengthening the stream rules: good result but it should not be over the objections of a council-member who claims leadership in that area.


I suppose that may be the best Ed can do: "the town didn't collapse on my watch." But that's not what he claimed in his guest column. He claimed specific accomplishments which, on examination, prove to be misleading overstatements.

Your use of the term "collapse" in itself attempts to prejudice the argument. Chapel Hill is less likely to go down with a bang than with a whimper. And whimper is very much a term one might associate with Ed "gun to my head" Harrison. Ed's whimpers take the form of a four year record of bad votes and weak excuses for them.

Now I've been holding to the apparently silly idea that a candidate for re-election ought to be able to give voters a reason to vote for him (that is, something more than "held the line against collapse") and that those reasons would be substantive and conveyed accurately. Now, it seems, at least according to George C, that it is up to other citizens to indicate how that candidate has failed. With Ed, it's easy.

Above, I gave the case of Ed's opposition to the Morgan Creek intermittent stream identification, falling short on the very issue to which he lays claim in his column. Neither Ed nor any of his supporters have attempted to refute this point.

It works. What went wrong?

Here's a little poop on Estes-

Until about four(?) years ago, Estes was moving nicely through the TIP and funded for planning and design, if I recall correctly, beginning next year. Then a funny thing happened: Hillsborough's position on the Elizabeth Brady (bypass) extension was unclear for a time, as Horace Johnson, who was mayor, and their Rep. to the MPO, consistently opposed it. After a while, the rest of his Board got wind of this, and issued a clarifying statement supporting the project.

Like magic, the NCDOT pushed Estes to the out years (no funding year identified) and Presto! Elizabeth Brady had a schedule for funding planning, and design (it's slipped, as has nearly everything else in the latest State TIP, but at the time, the coincidence was uncanny). I've never gotten a straight answer as to how these two were linked (given that Estes was ranked near the top of the MPO's priority list consistently), and how this occurred, except for rumblings that EB was of 'regional significance'. A more persuasive argument was that Hillsborough had come out on the short end of the stick in requested projects funded. Nonetheless, none of this explains NCDOT's complete diversion from our negotiating process in this instance.

Where we are today, is that the proposals for Carolina North
have put the scope of the Chapel Hill section back in play. As a result, we have requested that the project be split into two phases, with the Carrboro section to be improved w/ bike lanes and sidewalks---and no more---as a stand-alone project. This smaller scope may help accelerate it's ability to be funded, and hopefully avoid it's getting tangled in the CN discussions. That's where we're at.


I have no problem with your "airing of the record" as you put it regarding Ed H. You're entitled to your opinion and entitled to express it . I personally feel that he has been a strong member of a Council that has done an excellent job of steering this community in a tough political and financial environment. Is there room for improvement? Of course, there always is and we should strive for it but I am confident that Ed will continue to be a productive member of a productive team. My concerns are with your using statements taken out of context (I know you gave an explanation to Joe Capowski about that but it's hard to imagine that it was anything but intentional) and giving only those facts which tend to support your agenda. Hey, anything is fair game in politics but I think you often cloak your message(s) under an umbrella of journalistic impartiality when you are anything but.

My concerns about your lack of impartiality began with the first candidates' forum, which you moderated. I think that everyone would hope (and expect) a moderator to be impartial and that if one could not honestly do so they would decline the invitation. You chose to personally decide which candidates answered which questions (rather than use a random generation approach which would have been simple to do). You then chose to ask Ed the first question which was a specific issue on a project before the TC which you knew he could not legally respond to. It was a cheap shot - dirty pool at its best. You know it, I know it, and I suspect most of the readers of this site know it. For a politician it was probably a good move - something Karl Rove would be proud of. But it was beneath you as have been some of your other tactics.

Perhaps instead of the constant drone of criticism you might tell us how you (or whoever you're supporting) would do it better. But ideas are cheap - achieving them isn't. So please share with us how exactly all of these things you think should have been done, but weren't, will be done under your preferred scenario.

George, I don't think people will be distracted by your efforts to turn the conversation from Ed's (lack of) record to me. Folks recognize that you once again decline to provide any substantial accomplishment of Ed's (as he has failed to do himself). Folks also know that I am not running for office and that it is not, in this particular context, my job to tell you how I would do it better. But let's say I was running and that I failed to meet your challenge and tell you how I could do better than match Ed in accomplishing nothing. Then, I would no more deserve to be elected than Ed does.


I think that you're the one who keeps ducking the issue. You keep saying that Ed has accomplished nothing. Has the Town collapsed on his watch? Have taxes gone up disproportionately to the county or region? Has our transit system failed us? Has there been some suspension of human rights I'm not aware of? Has there been unbridled development somewhere or a Wal-Mart built in Southern Village that I missed the grand opening of?

By not defining what you consider to be success, you fail to define what failure is. What exactly were you expecting over the last 4 years that you are now so disappointed in and how are you expecting that to be achieved by whomever you would have replace Ed?

You're certainly under no obligation to answer my questions but IMHO your criticisms ring much more hollow when you refuse to say what it is that you wanted but didn't get.

Here's one of many examples of Ed voting against proposals to strengthen environmental protection:

The staff recommended for LUMO, that the threshold for tree protection be (a) 5,000 square feet and (b) one-half of the area of the lot above 5,000 square feet. That, as then-Planning Board chair Scott Radway pointed out in the public hearing, "would be no tree protection at all." The Planning Board recommendation was 5,000 square feet.

A 3,500 sf threshold was proposed for straw vote. This proposal lost on a 4-5 with the other four (then) Sierra Club supported members (Foy, Strom, Verkerk, Kleinschmidt) voting aye. Thus, Ed was the 'swing vote' to the developer-friendly position, allying himself (and not the only time) with developer-friendly Council-members like Evans in support of the weaker environmental position.

Here's how Ed thinks about such matters according to the minutes: "[Council Member Harrison] proposed using the higher thresholds for both tree protection and stormwater management, adding that the public will let the Council know if it is not working." He overlooked the fact that knowing after the fact that it is not working would mean the loss of many trees that should have been protected.

A strong environmentalist would advocate lower thresholds, taking a conservative position in defense of nature.

Dan, I've gone through the Town Council minutes and can find no support there for your claim that Ed "objected to and blocked the Morgan Creek neighborhood's effort to have an intermittent stream identified." Can you supply a link?

FYI, I've looked at the minutes for ...

The Jan. 22, 2003, council public hearing.

The Feb. 24, 2003, council business meeting.

The April 14, 2003 council business meeting.

What I see is complaints from the neighborhood about the staff's implementation of the intermittant stream standard, and no substantial disagreement from the council regarding those complaints.

You've got the link Ray. Check 2/24/2003 again. Consider the following interchange:

Mr. Reice showed his data and displayed graphs. He concluded that the stream called Kings Mill Morgan Creek Intermittent Stream has a well-defined channel and a riffle pool sequence. The stream flows for several days after it rains more than .5 inches, and has a well-developed benthic macro invertebrate community, he said. Dr. Reice concluded that this was an intermittent stream by any reasonable definition, including that of the Town of Chapel Hill

Council Member Harrison pointed out that the Town wants a definition that can be used any time of the year. Dr. Reice stated that the LUMO was written so that the score sheet need not be used, and even if one does use it, the stream still comes out as an intermittent stream under his observations and is clearly an intermittent stream by the Town's definition.

Harrison is clearly arguing against Reice's position and for a weaker definition of intermittent. He is siding with the developer, Creekside Development Group, and against the Morgan Creek neighborhood. (although I should acknowledge that in this case it is hard to tell whether it was Ed's interest in pleasing developers that was leading him or his tendency to support the positions of the town bureaucracy)

No substantial disagreement from the others? Consider:

Mayor Foy verified with the Town Attorney that the Council could make the determination that the stream is intermittent based on the evidence they had heard... Mayor Foy stated that he thought there was considerable evidence that this was an intermittent stream.

Council Member Strom moved, seconded by Council Member Kleinschmidt, to refer this back to the staff and the applicant to determine if the stream is intermittent

Probably based on the strong positions of Foy and others, the developer returned with a modified plan that acknowledged the stream as intermittent. Harrison's "leadership" on intermittent streams? In this case, nonexistent.

I posted the wrong link to the April 14, 2003 minutes. The correct one appears in the previous sentence.

There was one thing in the April 14 minutes that baffled me:

Aquatic Ecologist Seth Reice explained that the difference between ephemeral, intermittent and perennial is one of degree. There is no firm line that distinguishes them, he said. Dr. Reice described the Town Engineer's report as "befuddling,", and said he had measured aquatic insects in the stream that would die if deprived of water for even two days. They could not live in an ephemeral stream, he said.

If the insects die that quickly, how could they survive in an intermittant stream? Something doesn't add up.

I saw that passage in the 2/24 minutes. I don't see how it supports the "objected and blocked" claim. First, nothing was blocked. The neighbors got what they wanted, on a 9-0 vote. Second, Ed's point of the town's wanting a year-round definition isn't exactly earth-shattering. You don't want a test for intermittant or ephemeral streams that produces different results in the rainy and dry seasons because that gives developers an incentive to game the system (sort of like doing traffic counts in Chapel Hill during the summer).

Alex, Thanks for the update on what is going on with Estes. I visited the TIP projects site and think I found the Estes improvements under Incidental Projects. I also noticed under Projects, that the Seawell School Road to Homestead was under construction, which means funded I'm guessing.
It is a shame for parents of students attending Chapel Hill High, Seawell, or Smith that currently their is no safe avenue to ride bicycles or walk to those school. What is worse is that if a student stays after school for any reason beyond 4pm they can't even get a bus.

The minutes make it clear that Ed opposed the ecologically stronger position of identifying this stream.

As a result of Reice's challenge to the staff intepretation, the Council convened an expert committee and that November adopted new stream regulations. Ed voted for those changes, thereby tacitly acknowledging that his earlier position was wrong.

There's not necessarily a problem with Ed making a wrong decision. We all make mistakes. But there is a problem when the mistake is part of a pattern. And there is a serious problem when this is an issue that a candidate publicly claims as justifying his re-election.

While this does not address all the issues you raised, relief is on the way for kids and parents in the neighborhoods near the intersection of Homestead/High School roads. For the poop, see:



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