Shoulders for Estes Drive Extension!

Those who traverse Estes Drive Extension regularly may have noticed some delays from paving work going on. But wait, before you curse your fate for being stuck in traffic, take note: Those wide paved shoulders are going in right now to make biking on Estes safer!

A month ago, Eric Muller, asked 'Will Chapel Hill/Carrboro Ever Be Bike-Friendly?' Collaboration between the Carrboro Board of Aldermen and the Chapel Hill Town Council is leading to new paved shoulders on Estes Drive Extension – and a whole lot more!

After walking the route with Alderman Dan Coleman and meeting with the Carrboro Transportation Advisory Board, I realized that we had a huge opportunity to get this project done quickly by persuading the Board of Aldermen and the Town Council to switch funding from another project to Estes Drive Extension. Aldermen Joal Broun and Dan Coleman helped get this passed in Carrboro. Carrboro TAB Chair Heidi Perry and Chapel Hill resident Blair Pollock went with me to meet with the Town Council, where the funding change was unanimously approved a few months ago.

Here are some other initiatives that are helping to make Carrboro and Chapel Hill a more bike and pedestrian friendly place:

- In the last two years, Carrboro has opened a new bike path from near the bypass and South Greensboro to downtown. And we have built a number of new sidewalks around town, including along North Greensboro Street and Eugene Street.

- Opposite Estes Park, the Board of Aldermen is planning a non-motor vehicle path from Estes to Williams Street along Wilson Park. With the ongoing improvements on Estes, the Wilson Park Multi-Use Path will allow bicyclists to get between Greensboro Street in Carrboro and MLK Blvd in Chapel Hill with a reasonable degree of safety.

- Carrboro is also in the planning phase for greenways along Morgan Creek and Bolin Creek to intertie with corresponding greenways in Chapel Hill. And Chapel Hill is exploring ways to intertie with the American Tobacco Trail in Durham as well.


Wow! This is great news - I am always so nervous at the top of Estes. Good job Carrboro!

I've noticed the road work. This is indeed excellent news, and my hat is off to Mark and the other Carrboro and Chapel Hill officials who are making this happen! Thank you!!!

One small question: at the moment, the road work appears to stop about 2/3 or the way up the hill, where the road *really* narrows and the houses get closer. Will that last stretch of Estes at the top of the hill also be getting shoulders? (It looks like it'd be tough to do this, maybe even requiring condemnation of a strip of private property along the frontage of the existing road bed.

One other thing: I'd appreciate it if the Town of Carrboro could lop forty feet or so off the top of the hill, to make it a gentler climb. I'd really be much obliged.


We'll get right on the hill lopping, Eric. ;)

The last quarter mile or so will not have the paved shoulder, alas. We do not own any land to put the shoulder on in that area. Instead we are trying to create a bike/ped path that will lead from the end of the wide shoulder (at Estes Park Apartments) up along the sewer line to Wilson Park and Williams Street.

That way you won't have to ride on the worst part of Estes Drive at all. That part will not happen immediately, however.

Sounds like a good solution, Mark.

Mark, thanks for the update. The Wilson Park connector is already used by some, but a paved path will really open some great biking and walking options.

Is there any possibility of somehow linking Estes to downtown Carrboro via a bike path, and not on North Greensboro?

As someone who lives just off Estes Drive I am very excited about this shoulder. Even driving will be safer. However, what we mostly need is a better way to get downtown from Estes. The Bolin Creek Greenway stub from Umstead to Northside will help, but I still dream of a bikeway alongside the train tracks.

Thanks to the officials in Carrboro and Chapel Hill for improving Estes Drive for all of us!

As long as the University's powerplant uses coal brought in by rail and the concrete plant gets its supplies by rail, it will be hard to work around those railroad tracks, unfortunately.

Thank you for working to improve bicycle safety and lessen bicycle-automobile friction on real transportation corridors.

Those wide paved shoulders are going in right now to make biking on Estes safer!

It sounds like we're talking about adding paved travel surface width here, right? Are there old ft/new ft numbers available? I'd prefer, and I think most cyclists would prefer a 14' wide travel lane to a 10' + paved shoulder configuration, as creating a sharable lane avoids or minimizes the debris, maintenance and conflict points problems, particularly at intersections (where most car+bike crashes occur) that we get with paved shoulders and bike lanes.

As long as the University's powerplant uses coal brought in by rail and the concrete plant gets its supplies by rail, it will be hard to work around those railroad tracks, unfortunately.

I don't understand--are you saying a greenway can be put in only if the tracks are not abandonned? Or is the obstacle something specific about these uses or customers?

I note that the Federal Highway Administration holds up Carborro's Libba Cotton Trail as an example of a "Rails-with-trails—Paths created adjacent to active rail lines".

Is that not the same tracks along which Ruby dreams of a greenway?

Is that right-of-way part of NCRR and therefore state-owned?

Clearly it is not impossible to share that right of way. But it is harder to share.

As it happens the Libba Cotton Bikepath is shared with train tracks that belong to UNC. North of Main Street, the tracks belong to CSX (or some railroad company - I'm not sure which), not UNC. Anyway, the decisions become less local north of Main Street.

Also, north of Main Street, the tracks sit along the edge of a very steep incline on the east side, so there is less room for a bike/ped path there.

Still, it is possible. My point was only that it would be fairly easy to do if the rail line were to be abandoned - but that is not going to happen for several decades at the very least - possibly a century or more. UNC's investment in its power plant will take 20+ years to amortize I am sure. And of course, it is possible that the tracks will one day be part of our regional public transportation system (ie for humans, not just freight).

Also, good point about the travel lane width, Adrian. I am not sure about the question you ask. I will have to look into that.

I biked up and down Estes this afternoon--it looks good.

It would be good to keep an eye on how they handle westbound traffic on Estes at Seawell School. There's a right-turn-only lane there, so bicycles headed down the hill on the new Estes shoulder will find themselves to the right of right-turning traffic--not a good place to be if you're going straight. In addition to being likely candidates for a right hook, through bicycle traffic coming down the hill on the shoulder might be easily overlooked (or mistaken for turning) by vehicles coming up Estes and turning left on to Seawell Sch.

The through lane on Estes at Seawell Sch might be a good place to place a sharrow marking to encourage cyclists to use the correct lane for their destination.

Berkeley cycles from Carrboro to his workplace on Elliott Road (next to Whole Foods) by going through Chapel Hill and campus via Cameron Avenue -- not via Estes Drive. He maintains this is a much safer route, even though Estes is more direct. I think he's onto something.

Hurrah! Thanks to Everyone that made this possible.
It is swell, it is great, makes us one of the best in the state, for the bikes, for the peds, everythings coming up roses for me and for yooooouuu!

That's good news about Estes Drive. It has been one of the more dangerous roads for bicyclists.

I would love to see Chapel Hill do more to make MLK Blvd. safer for bicyclists. I have commuted at times by bike from North Forest Hills to campus, but it's dicey riding in traffic after the bike lane runs out south of Estes.

Especially with the planned Carolina North development, I think it's important to give people better options to commute to UNC by bicycle.


The Town and its advisory boards have been studying MLK Jr. Blvd. and drafting a plan for improvements to its bicycle and pedestrian safety. The draft recommendations can be seen at

Bill Strom and Ed Harrison have been working on a whole suite of ped/bike imporvements along MLK through the MPO (federal highway money process). It is fairly high up the priority list, but I ma not sure exactly where.


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