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The Daily Tar Heel

County Creates Transportation Wish List

The list encompasses county improvements to highways, transit systems and bicycle lanes, all of which the commissioners hope will ease safety concerns and provide alternatives to automobile travel within the county.

Craig Benedict, director of planning and inspections for Orange County, said he was pleased with the approved list. "The Transportation Improvement Plan that was approved (Monday) night was a breakthrough in a few different areas."

Benedict said the similarities between the lists of Orange County and other jurisdictions, such as Hillsborough, were important because of the diverse groups being represented.

Commissioner Barry Jacobs agreed, saying, "While there isn't unanimity, I think it was a step forward."

Hillsborough and Orange County are two of eight jurisdictions submitting lists to the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization -- one of the state's 17 total MPOs -- as part of the N.C. Department of Transportation's statewide improvement program for fiscal years 2004-10.

Wesley Parham, chairman of the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro planning organization, said Orange County's approval was one step in a lengthy process. He said each list is then reviewed by the organization's Transportation Advisory Committee and compiled into one regional list, which will be available for public comment at a hearing Jan. 9.

Pending resident approval, the planning organization will then send the finalized regional list to the NCDOT for consideration.

Finally, Parham explained, the NCDOT will appropriate funds to each of the state's 17 MPOs.

Among the projects requested by Orange County are the widening of U.S. 70 Bypass and N.C. 86 and the construction of a park and ride lot in the Buckhorn Economic Development District.

Along with these requests is an addendum seeking to include Orange County staff to ensure there are no harmful environmental impacts and to ensure residents' safety with the addition of sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

Commissioner Margaret Brown wanted the county to include a statement emphasizing the need for attractive landscaping in any improvements made. "This is something we want (the organization) to be conscious of when planning intersections."

But Jacobs was wary of the idea. "There have been studies done that (landscaping) attracts birds that then get killed by vehicles on interstates."

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