Two new bike and pedestrian paths are coming to Chapel Hill after the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization board approved $1.43 million in March for their construction.
The Morgan Creek Greenway project will extend the existing bike trail to the Carrboro boundary near Smith Level Road, while the Fordham Boulevard Sidepath project will create a multi-use path alongside Fordham Boulevard between Cleland Drive and Willow Drive.
About the projects
Both projects will be partially funded by the Federal Highway Administration, Chapel Hill Project Manager Marcia Purvis said.
The Town received $160,000 from the MPO for the Fordham Boulevard Sidepath, in addition to the $1.2 million already provided by the Town and the FHA, according to the Town of Chapel Hill's website.
The Town will also put $1.1 million toward the Morgan Creek Greenway, and the FHA provided $1.27 million.
Purvis said the MPO considered several applications for bike and pedestrian paths from communities in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham before deciding on Morgan Creek and Fordham Boulevard.
The selection process tested each application based on factors including connectivity, population density and safety. Purvis said the two projects scored high in these areas.
While the Town is still acquiring permits for the Morgan Creek Greenway, construction on the Fordham Sidepath is expected to begin in the fall of this year. Purvis said securing the permits for construction is a lengthy process and can often be unpredictable.
The estimated price for the construction of the Fordham Sidepath is up to date, Purvis said. She does not predict needing to secure any additional funds.
However, Purvis said there has been no update to the estimated price for the construction of the Morgan Creek Greenway since before the COVID-19 pandemic began.
John Rees, president of the Bicycle Alliance of Chapel Hill and member of the Chapel Hill Planning Commission, said the Fordham Boulevard section was a much-needed and long-awaited addition to a road he considers unsafe for cycling.
Whenever there are new housing projects, Rees said, housing developers are responsible to build bike infrastructure.
However, since there are no housing developments planned along the two paths, the Town has stepped in to complete the network of safe bike and pedestrian paths in the area, Rees said.
“You don’t have good bike infrastructure until you build out everything," Rees said. "If you can’t build one segment, then the entire network becomes useless."
While there is no housing directly beside the future multi-use paths, many communities will benefit from the construction of the greenway and sidepath because they will connect the existing paths.
Part of the Morgan Creek Greenway project will connect the path directly to Kingswood Apartments.
However, Rees said he was concerned about the Town's tendency to inform only homeowners about projects like this.
“The Town doesn’t have a really mature process for notifying people who don’t own homes,” he said.
Purvis said that to reach renters in the Kingswood complex, the Town can go through the development’s management company.
“I will get information to them one way or another, even if I have to go hand-deliver letters to each door,” Purvis said.
Lydia Rowen, a UNC sophomore and volunteer mechanic at Carrboro bike nonprofit ReCYCLEry NC, said she is an advocate of cycling as a means of recreation and transportation.
She also noted that greenways are good because they keep cyclists and walkers away from cars.
"I think greenways are a really good opportunity for people and their families to get out," she said.
The two projects are a part of a growing network of multi-use paths across North Carolina.
Rees praised urban greenways like the Bolin Creek Trail, as well as larger projects like the American Tobacco Trail, which connects Chapel Hill and Durham, or the planned Triangle Bikeway, which will link Raleigh and Chapel Hill.
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