The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday March 20th

Carrboro Aldermen pursue ‘road diet’ for West Main Street

The streets of Carrboro may soon be going on a diet.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday night to pursue a “road diet” that would reduce a portion of West Main Street from four lanes to three to allow for a center turn lane and bike lanes.

Transportation Advisory Board member Seth LaJeunesse, who presented the plan to the board, said the diet would be especially appropriate for an area like West Main Street that has a traffic volume of 20,000 or fewer vehicles per day.

“Essentially, it’s a lane reconfiguration,” he said. “It improves mobility and access for transit users, pedestrians and bicyclists.”

LaJeunesse said other advantages of the project, which would stretch from West Weaver Street to Hillsborough Road, include improved safety, road continuity and an enhanced appearance.

“The bike lane gives pedestrians more space and makes them feel more comfortable,” he said. “You could also potentially move trees closer to the roadway, which reduces traffic noise and improves aesthetics.”

LaJeunesse, who has researched lane reductions across the state, said there was a 29 percent decrease in car accidents in areas where four-lane roads were reduced to two-lane roads with a center turn lane.

Alderman Jacquie Gist said the plan was workable but questioned LaJeunesse on its safety.

“Sometimes it seems like you can have people going different directions in the center lane,” she said. “You may then have head-on issues.”

LaJeunesse acknowledged this concern, but he said crashes of this type generally have not occurred where road diets are already in place.

Dale McKeel, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator of Durham, presented the board with examples of road diets in Durham and Charlotte and said he was pleased with their outcomes.

“To some people, the term ‘road diet’ has a negative connotation,” he said. “But there are a lot of benefits to reducing lanes on a road.”

Alderman Randee Haven-O’Donnell encouraged the proposal and said it would be suitable for the town.

“As someone who is on their bike often, I see this as being a great plus,” she said. “I applaud the Transportation Advisory Board for their work on this.”

Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton said because West Main Street is a state-maintained highway, the board will have to work with the N.C. Department of Transportation to pursue these changes.

“We’re not just going to go out with our trucks tomorrow and start painting lines on the road,” he said.

“This will take a while, but we hope we will move forward with (the proposal).”

No set timeline for the project’s completion was set at the meeting.

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