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Monday May 10th

Downtown Partnership aims to relieve congestion in Chapel Hill

<p>A person walks across a soon-to-be repainted crosswalk on Franklin Street on Sunday, Sept. 29th, 2019.&nbsp;</p>
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A person walks across a soon-to-be repainted crosswalk on Franklin Street on Sunday, Sept. 29th, 2019. 

In an effort to create a safer downtown, the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership submitted a petition to the town to ask for small infrastructure changes on West Franklin Street.

The petition, which was presented by the board at the Sept. 25 Chapel Hill Town Council meeting, requests that a traffic analysis report be conducted prior to the re-striping of West Franklin Street next year. 

“Right now, West Franklin Street is very busy...it’s much busier than a downtown neighborhood district should be,” said Matt Gladdek, the executive director of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership, at the Sept. 25 meeting. 

Downtown partnership board members said they hope a traffic impact analysis report will initiate a redesign of West Franklin Street that reduces the walking distance for pedestrians when crossing, as well as maintain on-street parking and loading zones. 

“We just hope to make downtown a nicer place to be, and to invite people to be down here,” Gladdek said.

Some business owners on West Franklin Street said they believe the new design would be a boost to foot traffic by making it safer for pedestrians to roam the downtown area.

“Anytime the city can relieve congestion, it’s gonna be a win for businesses," said Bret Oliverio, owner of Sup Dogs, which is located on Franklin Street. "I fully support bike lanes and any changes of Franklin Street that make it as easy as possible to get to Sup Dogs.” 

At the Sept. 25 meeting, the town council unanimously approved the motion to send the petition to town staff, where it will be reviewed for further approval. The council is now waiting for the staff to look over the petition and decide if they are going to go through with the traffic impact analysis report or not.

Chapel Hill Town Council member Allen Buansi said the proposed addition of protected bike lanes would encourage local cyclists to bike downtown. 

“I am eagerly looking forward to town staff returning to Town Council about the feasibility of traffic analysis report," Buansi said. "Personally, I’ve been a cyclist for a long time, and I know it’s a journey in terms of making Franklin Street more biker friendly, and it’s something I’m interested in for sure."

If the petition is approved by the Town, the traffic analysis report proposed by the downtown partnership would be conducted prior to the re-striping.

“I don’t foresee anyone being opposed to this petition. We are always trying to find ways to make downtown safer for bikers and pedestrians,” Buansi said.

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