Road work

There was a lot of concern about traffic corridors voiced Monday night at the Town Council hearing on the long-range transit plan – but not on the corridor you might have expected.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard/N.C. 86 corridor had received the most attention in recent years because it was to provide primary road access to UNC’s 200-acre Carolina North campus. A lot of thought has gone into what effect that huge project would have on adjacent roads.

So it was a surprise when Carolyn Elfland, associate vice chancellor for Campus Services at UNC, added a wrinkle to all the transit planning that’s going on. She told the council members the state has held back funding for Carolina North and is shifting money to UNC development along the N.C. 54 corridor. It’s a state budget thing and has forced UNC to prioritize plans for the N.C. 54 corridor and slow down development of Carolina North.

“UNC owns a lot of land off N.C. 54,” Laurin Easthom reminded council members.
UNC Health Care has a big presence in Meadowmont. The Friday Center is just across the road. UNC Hospitals is building a new medical imaging center at the corner of Country Club Road and N.C. 54 and also has two separate undeveloped 1-acre plots in Meadowmont.

Council member Jim Ward was concerned about the focus being shifted to N.C. 54, and he was adamant that the MLK corridor was just as important as that roadway that heads east out of Chapel Hill. He pointed out that the distance from Interstate 40 to Carolina North would be the same whether one traveled to it along MLK or N.C. 54. Sally Greene echoed those sentiments, saying that a strong MLK was essential.

Sure, it’s important to keep an eye on the regional picture. But traffic concerns along N.C. 54 – from road capacity to dangerous intersections to development pressures — will take center stage next week. There’s a Feb. 25 public workshop at the Friday Center that will look at planning for the N.C. 54/I-40 corridor. The session is to start at 5 p.m. and last until 8. If you’re interested in adding to the debate, you should stop by.
–Don Evans

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  1. Bill

     /  February 17, 2010

    The Town Council shouldn’t be getting its panties in a wad over this. UNC will do whatever they want, they are not beholden to the Town Council. After all, the State is sovereign over the local government. Just ask the fiscal managers waiting on their tax revenues.

    Rather than acting indignant they should be simply watching the moves of UNC and preparing to respond.


  2. Terri Buckner

     /  February 17, 2010

    This is big news—gotta wonder where the local press was when this funding shift was announced. Wonder if Gene Pease caught them sleeping on camera? 🙂

  3. Steve

     /  February 17, 2010

    Anybody who regularly uses this route, which includes all the people coming to campus from Raleigh and all the south Chapel Hill/Carrboro folks commuting to RTP, RDU, and points east (such as Ellie Kinnaird), knows that this is a HUGE issue. The number of traffic lights on this route has doubled in 10 years, development has soared, the 54/I-40 interchange is a mess, traffic jams are a mile-plus long every day …. it’s nothing like Airport Road is.

    Few if any on the Town Council fall into this group of commuters, so, of course they don’t consider it a problem.

  4. Lisa Maloney

     /  February 17, 2010

    The University’s land on Rte 54 that abuts Roger Perry’s East 54 project — that smacks of good-old-boy politics that borders on the criminal. Someone should look behind the scenes on this one.

  5. Duncan O'Malley

     /  February 17, 2010

    All that time and effort — not to mention blood, sweat and tears on the community’s part — that went into securing an agreement on Carolina North, and now they postpone it and switch priorities to Rte 54?
    Sounds pretty idiotic to me.

  6. Bill

     /  February 17, 2010

    And in spite of the comments above, the incumbents will win in November. LOL!

  7. Ed Harrison

     /  February 17, 2010

    Don, thanks for joining David Bonk and me in publicizing the NC 54 workshop process. I was the one who asked for the study on the Chapel Hill end in early 2007. The request on the Durham (City) end came from transportation staff, because of the huge amount of mostly-vacant land in the Durham City and County jurisdictions. The previous Town Council had two members who used NC 54 regularly from near campus. My wife and I are most likely to use it for the short distance from Farrington Road to the I-40 ramp — after a wait in a left turn on Farrington Road that used to take as long as half an hour. The “recalibration” of signals after the second off-ramp was added and the longer right turn lane at the bottom of Farrington, are both the result of my requests directly to Durham City staff . Although the roads are state roads, the horrendous intersection has been entirely within the Durham City limits for 23 years, and they are getting better at helping it.

    BTW, the media did give much coverage of the legislature’s freezing of funds to the UNC system. But, unless you were thinking about Carolina North’s prospects, it didn’t register that it applied there too.

  8. Terri Buckner

     /  February 18, 2010

    Bill–there are no local municipal elections this November.

  9. Bill

     /  February 19, 2010

    Uh, Terri- you said “this” november, not me.