N.C. Highway 54 runs through the southern side of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, connecting passengers to Burlington in the west and Raleigh in the east. It also cuts through dense population areas in Orange County without the infrastructure to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists traveling along the corridor or attempting to access transit stops.
To address this lack of infrastructure and the dangers it poses, the N.C. Department of Transportation is conducting a long-term corridor study of the highway between the intersections of Old Fayetteville Road in Carrboro and Manning Drive in Chapel Hill. NCDOT partnered with the two towns and UNC to conduct the N.C. 54 Bicycle and Pedestrian Corridor Safety Study.
Damon Seils, Carrboro Board of Aldermen member, said residents and officials in Chapel Hill and Carrboro have, over the years, raised concerns about the safety of pedestrians and cyclists on the corridor. He said there is a lack of infrastructure for people along the highway who are not in cars.
“I challenge anyone to feel safe crossing Highway 54 at Manning Drive, even with the pedestrian signal at the crosswalks,” he said.
Brian Litchfield, transit director for the Town of Chapel Hill, said NCDOT controls the corridor’s infrastructure. With study input from the towns and UNC, he said he hopes for the department to invest in improved infrastructure.