Triangle-area agencies have made plans for a 17-mile bikeway that will run through Raleigh, Cary, Morrisville, Research Triangle Park, Durham and Chapel Hill.
It will follow the I-40 and NC54 corridor and will be shared use for pedestrians and cyclists.
Proposals for the Triangle Bikeway have been long in the making. In 2016, when Wake County was in the early stages of a plan to expand its greenways, ideas emerged for a bike path that would bisect I-40.
Ideas like the Triangle Bikeway are relatively new, said Kenneth Withrow, a senior transportation planner with the NC Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
“Discussions about greenways and regional bike plans simply didn’t happen 20 or 30 years ago,” he said.
Following Wake County's lead, other local governments considered joining the project. Eventually, with buy-in from cities like Durham, Cary, Chapel Hill and others, the Triangle Bikeway project was born.
Funding for the project has yet to be finalized. There is currently no prospective timetable for when the bikeway would be completed and rideable, Withrow said.
"I would be remiss in saying let's put a hard deadline on the lower time or the latter time at which a project could be built," he said.
The next step in the process is to do an environmental analysis of the site, Withrow said. The analysis would help secure funding for the project.
Withrow said there are many regional stakeholders anxious to see the project finished.
“The issue beyond all the planning, beyond the funds, is continually engaging the stakeholders who have an interest in this project to stay involved and stay the course," he said.
Over the past year, there have been a series of public workshops and meetings to discuss the Triangle Bikeway, which involved going over surveys, discussing proposed routes and identifying any problems in the plans.
Project Manager Iona Thomas summarized the general tone of the survey responses.
“What we’re hearing is that this is a popular project, and it has broad support," she said. "People are really excited about this as a potential infrastructure piece of our community.”
John Rees, president of the Bicycle Alliance of Chapel Hill, has been a longtime bike advocate in the area. For him, the bikeway is not just for leisure — it's a means of transportation that will transform transit in the region.
“People think of things like greenways and bike paths as something you go to on the weekend with your family and putz around and have a good time — and I'm a total advocate of that kind of usage,” he said. “But, the bikeway is really a serious, legitimate way of commuting and traveling.”
Not only would the bikeway provide an alternate way to travel, but Rees also stressed its importance in terms of combating climate change by reducing the number of vehicles on the road.
“It's a tough thing to accept that we're all gonna have to change the way we’re getting around,” Rees said. “Of course some people will say, ‘Well, let’s all get electric cars,’ and electric cars are great for reducing greenhouse emissions, but nothing is perfect."
Not everyone can afford some of the electric cars currently available on the market, he said.
"Bicycles are a heck of a lot cheaper,” Rees said.
More information on the project is available on its website.