Down the road

I guess you could call it the warning bell. On the Town Council’s Consent Agenda for tonight’s business meeting is commitment of town money toward the cost of putting sidewalks along the Weaver Dairy Road widening project.

Yes, first efforts seem to have begun in the long-aborning state project, which would three-lane the 2.74-mile length of the road from N.C. 86 to Erwin Road and extend Weaver Dairy to connect with Sage Road. Trees along the road across from Timberlyne shopping center have started coming down. A map (http://townhall.townofchapelhill.org/agendas/2010/02/22/5e/5e-1-area_map-weaver_dairy_road.pdf) of the project shows a diversion of Weaver Dairy southeast of Silver Creek Drive to allow the extension to join up with Sage Road.

The $13.5 million project, which the council approved in 2001, will include one travel lane in each direction with exclusive turn lanes and a center turn lane. The plans include bicycle lanes, bus pull-off areas and raised center median areas for pedestrians and landscaping. The estimated cost of the sidewalks is approximately $302,684, with Chapel Hill picking up the tab for $121,074 with a combination of state funds and town bond funds.

The extension would cut through a wooded area near Silver Creek Drive and the backyards of a whole lot of homeowners’ properties near Carriage Circle and Carrington Drive to the north and River Birch Lane to the south and come out between the entrance to Covington Place and River Birch Lane. Those residents are in for a messy couple of years.

And that link-up of Weaver Dairy with Sage is going to result in one busy section of roadway, with three outlets within a couple hundred yards of one another.

Construction is expected to start in September/October.
–Don Evans

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4 Comments

  1. Bill

     /  February 22, 2010

    Good thing they are cutting down the trees before they tighten up their tree hugging ordinance.

  2. “Do as I say, not as I do” continues to be an expedient strategy for lots of issues.

    I’ve tried to get a commitment from the Town, going as far back as the preliminary discussions on the T.O.C., to replant at least and possibly significantly more trees/foliage than was removed in constructing Town-related projects.

    I even made it a plank of my platform each time I’ve run. At a 2007 WCHL1360 forum Foy plaintively complained that the Town couldn’t plant trees elsewhere – on Town owned property, etc. – to replace the clear cutting it did at Southern Park right as I suggested it should to comply with all the promises that he and the other incumbents – Strom, Greene, Hill – had already made about carbon reduction (CRED). Trying to deflect my criticism that he and the other incumbents “talked a good game” but didn’t “walk the talk”, he even tried to suggest I was asking him to plant trees on the new soccer fields. Pretty sad song-n-dance.

    Same story on Lot $5, the Aquatics center, etc.

    Of course, NCDOT regularly mows down trees without committing to restore an equivalent amount of CRED elsewhere. The difference being that NCDOT doesn’t pontificate about CRED.

    As far as Weaver Dairy, this was quite a contentious plan when it came forward starting in 1999 and was finally approved in 2001. The upshot is that the current plan was a compromise between widening W.D. to 4-5 lanes the whole extent and doing something a bit less damaging to that part of Town.

    There was also concern, which we’ve since seen borne out, that making W.D. capable of handling heavier traffic loads would encourage its use as a major west-east corridor (the idea, as I recall, was to make it painful enough to navigate it that drivers would opt for I-40 – a shaky assumption at best).

    There was some discussion (led by Ed H?) at the time that the middle turn lane could actually make crossing/using W.D. more dangerous so modifications were made to the plan to accommodate pedestrians, etc. To get some of these improvements Council elected to defer monies being spent on sidewalks at that time (http://townhall.townofchapelhill.org/archives/agendas/ca010702/8-Weaver%20Dairy%20Sidewalk%20Bid%20for%20Construction.htm)

    Some background on the approved proposal here: http://townhall.townofchapelhill.org/archives/agendas/ca010122/8-additional%20Weaver%20Dairy%20Proposed%20Improvements%20%201-22-01%20SL.htm

    In reviewing the 1999-2001 public participation (including the prelim work of the Citizens Committee to Study Traffic Safety Issues on Weaver Dairy Road), Council minutes, etc. I was struck that some of the base assumptions used in justifying the alternative before tonight’s Council haven’t been revisited or revalidated since that initial approval. While I believe that several key assumptions on WD, growth in traffic on that corridor, etc. were on target, it’s interesting that tonight’s materials omit any discussion on updating them.

  3. Ed Harrison

     /  February 22, 2010

    This budget item represents the Town’s portion of a NCDOT project, which was actually approved in its present form in 2002, not 2001. The Council still in office in 2001 had supported DOT’s significantly more destructive version of the project. The Council seated with the 2001 election constrained the project, and worked hard (Kevin Foy and I) at the regional level to get the money saved, transferred to our signal system replacement — which is finally under construction. Since it’s a state project, on land the state owns, no local ordinance, tree or otherwise, applies to it. The land is not cutting through “a lot of backyards” — although people may think it’s their land — because it’s on land the state reserved many years ago through the town’s subdivision process. In a few places, DOT did ask for additional land for construction access. Having said that, the expansion of a non-residential development extremely close to us several years ago makes it feel like we have someone else’s buildings in our kitchen and dining room, much less our back yard. Realtors are required by NC law to disclose that a state road is to be built next to properties they are trying to sell. The ones who did not do so in the case of Weaver Dairy Road are, in the opinions of many, criminals.

  4. Thanks Ed for the background. The 2002 agreement basically worked within the outlines set in 2001.

    As far as possible areas to revisit, areas that could probably use a reanalysis in light of new development and bike/ped access include Perkins, Vilcom, Sunrise and the possibly visual enhance of crossings around East Chapel Hill High and Carol Woods.

    I know the request this evening is essentially a call to release the funds that the Town already agreed to dispense, I just thought there would be a bit more backing material on W.D., the changes on it that have happened since 2002, etc.

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