The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday January 24th

Town May Incorporate Tract in Transit Plans

The Chapel Hill Town Council voted to continue participating in a regional transportation study and instructed town staff to develop a process to connect regional mass transit plans to the future Horace Williams development.

No plans now directly link the tract to a proposed corridor that would connect areas of the Triangle with various forms of mass transit.

Council member Kevin Foy said it was important to consider the tract when planning the corridor.

In 1995 the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Transportation Advisory Committee initiated a study of how to plan the corridor, which recommends transit options like bus lanes, diesel rail and light rail.

Town Manager Cal Horton said the second phase of the study, which examines transit improvements between Durham and Chapel Hill, started in 1999.

The regional transportation plan details most area transportation plans but does not focus on specifics with the Horace Williams tract.

"The plan was too far along to add Horace Williams," said council member Bill Strom.

The Horace Williams tract is a 979-acre parcel of land north of main campus that is slated for development under the University's Master Plan, a 50-year guide for development and growth.

UNC wants to house research and residential facilities as well as commercial development on the tract.

Plans include proposals for 1,900 residential units. The plan also predicts 45,000 daily auto trips around the development.

Mayor Rosemary Waldorf also urged consideration of the tract's impact on regional transit planning because the tract's development will initiate a new set of commuters in Chapel Hill.

"Not all employees (working at the proposed Horace Williams development) will live here," Waldorf said.

But council members hope to plan for future traffic near Horace Williams through a process to add mass transit to the area.

"It's a very preliminary step, but it's a step," Strom said.

Horton anticipates the advisory committee, which is composed of representatives from local municipalities and universities, the N.C. Department of Transportation and the Triangle Transit Authority will complete and adopt the study Nov. 14 after receiving comments from the Town Council.

Horton estimated construction on the Durham-Chapel Hill section of the transportation corridor will begin sometime eight to 20 years from now.

"Nothing is moving very fast," he said.

But Horton added the planning for the construction must be far in advance of construction.

"If you don't take a very long-term view on these issues, you find that all the property that may be developed is built up."

The City Editor can be reached at citydesk@unc.edu.

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