As construction on the Bolin Creek Trail connector nears its end, pedestrians should seek alternatives to traveling on the bridge between Bolinwood Drive and East Franklin Street, which will be in repairs until September.
Those using wheelchairs, scooters and other mobility devices cannot use the 2-feet-wide temporary bridge, according to a news release from the Town of Chapel Hill. The release suggested ADA-compliant individuals pursue alternative transport options, including the shared-ride EZ Rider paratransit service, a ride service provided on a reservation basis.
Project Manager Marcia Purvis said the bridge repairs will be done by the end of September, with weather-dependent hopes of earlier completion. In addition to the ADA recommendations, she said she recommended bike riders walk their bikes over the trail.
This small update is part of a larger project to connect the Northside neighborhood with the Chapel Hill Community Center Park, said Town Parks and Recreation Director Phillip Fleischmann. He said this is an equity-focused effort to ensure vehicle-free connectivity to all Chapel Hill residents.
“It’s related to equity in terms of providing better accessibility and access to the Northside neighborhood, as well as really any neighborhood that adjoins the trail, providing better connectivity and alternatives to motor vehicle transportation in town,” Fleischmann said.
Fleischmann mentioned other components, including coal ash remediation efforts adjacent to the police station and work on the connector beneath Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, as additional continuations of the project.
The Town discovered the coal ash in 2013 and voted to start cleaning it up last year.
The coal ash remediation efforts are still ongoing, said Ran Northam, the community safety communications specialist for the Town of Chapel Hill.
Purvis said the bridge and other updates to the trail make one “last connection” for a lengthy effort to complete the project.
“We should be finishing this project up later this year, it’s that last connection for the Bolin Creek Trail,” Purvis said. “With the improvements that we’ve made, it will be a nicer trail.”
Fleischmann said analysis of data from a counter along the trail, on which construction has continued through the COVID-19 pandemic, has found additional visitors have used the trail in every month since March 2020 than during the same time over the past three years.
“From March through the present, we’ve seen more use on our trails in Chapel Hill as evidenced by the trail counter that we have through the Bolin Creek Trail,” Fleischmann said. “In April of 2020, there were 25,000 visits past this trail counter. In 2019, there were 15,000 visits logged.”
Fleischmann said especially as more residents are opting to get outside, the completion of these trails serve as an addition to a “wonderful” network.
“In Chapel Hill, we’re very fortunate to have a wonderful trail system, that’s comprised of paved and unpaved trails within our network,” Fleischmann said. “We’re really excited about having this particular connector, as well as the other Bolin Creek Trail improvement projects, wrapped up.”
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