After three deaths in three days on nearby roads last month, Carrboro officials have said they want to continue to push for funding from the state to improve bike lanes and walkways around town.
The town is always looking for money to improve bicyclist and pedestrian access around town, but funding from the North Carolina Department of Transportation is limited and the approval process is lengthy.
Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton said Carrboro has been waiting for approval for some projects from the Department of Transportation for as many as 30 years.
“It’s a long process,” he said.
Chilton said the department reserves most federal dollars for highways, so there is very little left for local projects.
“We’ve many times requested funding for bicycle and pedestrian improvement,” he said.
Julia Casadonte, spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, said the town of Carrboro ranks among the lowest in bicycle or pedestrian-related crashes in the state.
She said Carrboro does not rank in the top 20 among N.C. cities in the number of pedestrian-related crashes, and it ranked 18th out of 20 N.C. cities in the number of bicycle-related crashes. Raleigh was first on that list, Durham was fifth and Cary was 12th.
Kumar Trivedi, deputy director of the DOT’s bicycle and pedestrian transportation division, said several factors go into getting a project approved.
He said metropolitan planning organizations and rural planning organizations work with local representatives to request a project and determine the need for and safety of the project.
Projects are then ranked according to cost, safety needs and how easily they can be constructed, Trivedi said. The higher the rank of the project, the more likely it is to get funding.
Chilton said the DOT is less likely to funnel money to areas with low numbers of bicycle- and pedestrian-related crashes. He said the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area has about one pedestrian fatality a year.
“Those are unacceptable numbers,” he said. “I don’t think we should wait until someone has been killed.”
But he said he doesn’t want to sound “ungrateful,” because the DOT has been more receptive to Carrboro’s bicycle and pedestrian transportation-related needs.
“I have to praise the spirit of compromise,” Chilton said. “They’re listening to us more.”
Kurt Stolka, vice chairman of the Carrboro Transportation Advisory Board, said some problem areas in the town are on Jones Ferry Road, Greensboro Street and West Main Street.
When Carrboro began expanding, the town stopped leaving space between bike lanes or sidewalks and the street, Stolka said.
He said many parents in the Carrboro area will drive their children to a school close by because they do not feel comfortable letting them walk or bike to school.
“I think there’s a lot we can improve on,” he said.
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