The council called the forum so it could receive the public's view on a proposal it submitted to the N.C. Department of Transportation. The town's plan calls for the thoroughfare to be made into one lane of traffic in both directions with a middle turn lane stretching the length of the road.
Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy outlined the proposal for the board and audience.
He said the council's goal is to maximize the road's vehicle capacity without an excessive number of accidents. "We also looked at whether the road could retain its characteristics as a neighborhood road," Foy said. "We paid attention to the volume of traffic, not only for automobiles, but for bikes and pedestrians as well."
Foy then mentioned that the town proposal includes plans for bike lanes and sidewalks on both sides of the road, which drew loud applause from the gathered residents.
Foy added that while certain sections of the road would be expanded to three lanes, other sections would be contracted to three lanes to give the road uniformity.
The vast number of residents attending the forum were in favor of the town's plan and against the state's. One of those was Marguerite Watson of the Carol Woods Retirement Community, who said if the road is altered the way the NCDOT has proposed, the area will lose residents. The NCDOT's plan calls for two lanes to be built in both directions with a center median.
"The four-lane expansion has serious repercussions for Carol Woods," Watson said. "None of us want a noisy environment. Would we have chosen to live between a freeway and an interstate?"
Watson's sentiments were echoed by Warren Greshes, who lives in the Silver Creek neighborhood.
"My wife told me to come speak tonight because she said people seem to think Silver Creek wants to turn Weaver Dairy into the New Jersey turnpike," Greshes said. "We do not. Like they said in 'Field of Dreams,' if you build it, they will come. If you widen this road, they will definitely come."
Although most people stood when one speaker called for those who supported the town's plan to stand, there were two notable objectors to the three-lane plan.
Aaron Nelson, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce, said that while the chamber's members do not always have the same view on every issue, the chamber's board of directors has thrown its support with the NCDOT.
"We support the four-lane plan with bike lanes and a median. Over 70 members of the chamber have written to the DOT expressing support for their plan," Nelson said. "However, if the DOT were to accept the council's plan, you would hear no more from the chamber."
The other dissenting speaker was Seymour Freed, a resident of Carol Woods and a retired roadway engineer.
"I am not in support of the four-lane proposal, but the three lane will do all the environmental damage of the four and won't increase capacity as much," Freed said. "The road will become significantly more unsafe because Weaver Dairy does not have the sight lines to allow for a three-lane road."
The council will take the comments from residents under advisement and make changes to the plan if it thinks evidence for a change is sufficient.
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