Walgreens plans lead to resignation

Intersection disagreements are cause

The differing opinions of the Town Council and the Transportation Board about a potentially dangerous intersection have led to one member’s resignation.

Transportation Board member Roger Lundblad recently quit his position after disagreements regarding the construction of a new Walgreens at the intersection of East Franklin Street and Estes Drive.

Lundblad’s term was set to expire on June 30.

The board had recommended the construction of a longer median down both East Franklin Street and South Estes Drive to prevent left turns coming out of the proposed Walgreens site to minimize accidents, he said.

Instead, the Town Council decided to put in a “pork chop island” — a triangular median next to a right turn lane that forces traffic in one direction.

“The intersection is a disaster,” Lundblad said. “I have been living here for 40 years, and it’s been a disaster for 40 years.”

The Walgreens will increase future traffic in one of the most congested intersections in Chapel Hill, Lundblad said.

Between 2003 and 2006, 56 car accidents occurred in the intersection. The intersection is the seventh-most dangerous in town, council member Penny Rich said in January.

Augustus Cho, chairman of the Transportation Board, agreed that the town’s solution wouldn’t solve the problem in the long run.

“Putting a pork chop instead of heeding what the Transportation Board recommended is to settle for a short-term solution to a long-term challenge,” Cho said.

Assumptions that a median would hurt the business of the Caribou Coffee by the intersection prevented the lengthened island from being constructed, Cho said.

“What is disturbing about this particular decision is that this is, unfortunately, indicative of the Town Council addressing issues that affect all of us via piecemeal mentality,” he said.

Cho said this decision showed the council wasn’t using its foresight for the greater good.

Council member Ed Harrison, who has previously served on the Transportation Board, said he was worried a median would reduce the width of the street.

“As a person that goes through that intersection by bicycle, car and foot, I know it’s pretty tight as it is,” Harrison said.

Harrison said he doesn’t think the new Walgreens will increase the traffic of the intersection because it mostly attracts pass-by trips from people on the way home or to work.

Harrison said he respected Lundblad’s viewpoint, but said that it only represented one of many.

Lundblad said frustration with town government led him to quit his job in the board.

“I won’t work for town government as long as they don’t change the way this town is governed,” he said.

Cho said Lundblad had lived in town since the 1960s and would be missed on the board.

“He’s witnessed both the good and less so of the Town Council’s decisions over the past four decades.”

Contact the City Editor at citydesk@unc.edu.

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