The town of Hillsborough just started a project to make downtown safer and more accessible for pedestrians.
Construction for the Churton Street Access Improvements Project began April 17 and is expected to last eight to 10 months. The project aims to make downtown Hillsborough safer for pedestrians by widening sidewalks and increasing wheelchair accessibility.
The plan will bring the sidewalks up to the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act and involves adding new crosswalks, sidewalks, two new bus stops and handicap ramps.
Stephanie Trueblood, public space manager for the town of Hillsborough, said she thinks the improvements will help bring the older town up to date on safety standards.
“Hillsborough is a 250-year-old town, so what we are doing is retrofitting an old town to meet today’s needs,” she said.
Tom Stevens, mayor of Hillsborough, said he thinks the project will improve the downtown area.
“Downtown will be so much safer and so much more pleasant for everybody, particularly pedestrians," Stevens said. "It is a very well-thought-out project and it is well-designed. There’s lots of community input."
The project is expected to cause some congestion and noise downtown.
“We’ve always had a lot of concern about traffic," Stevens said. "We understand the concerns and we try to mitigate them as much as possible and we are going to do our best and make it work."
The N.C. Department of Transportation encourages drivers and pedestrians to use caution when passing through downtown.
"The town will work with a contractor and the N.C. Department of Transportation to reduce inconveniences as much as possible," a town press release said.
Businesses will stay open during the construction.
Stevens said he thinks the improvements will be great additions to downtown and residents should continue to support local businesses during the construction.
“We have designed the project in a way that the stores will all be able to be open and there will be pedestrian access, but it may mean some finagling around for folks who are downtown,” he said.
“We think our businesses are unique and wonderful places, and are well worth the little bit of extra hassle to keep supporting them. When it’s done a year from now it will be really wonderful."
Trueblood said pedestrian safety is one of the best improvements.
“The most important of the improvements is to elevate the visibility of pedestrians in downtown Hillsborough and to give them safe passage through downtown," she said.
“Some of the improvements will also create additional sidewalk area and display of merchandise for some of our local businesses. The new crosswalks and handicap ramps will make it easier for people who are pushing strollers or who might use wheelchairs.”
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