The Chapel Hill Town Council held its first meeting of 2023 on Wednesday. The council primarily discussed plans for transportation changes to improve accessibility between Chapel Hill and the surrounding areas.
- The Town Council heard a plan to swap the previously approved N.C. 54 corridor improvement project for a new resolution to widen U.S. Highway 15-501.
- Bergen Watterson, the transportation planning manager for the Town, presented the plan and explained the State Transportation Improvement Program and its management of transportation programs.
- She explained that the STIP gets updated every four years to include new projects and the organization has committed (funded) and uncommitted (not funded) projects on its list of priorities.
- Watterson said the North Carolina Department of Transportation had a "funding crisis" in 2020 and that the projects gradually became unfrozen.
- She said swaps can be made from local input if the project swaps are eligible and have to be within 10 percent of the original project cost. The change is awaiting NCDOT approval, and the department's response showed they seemed amenable to the swap.
- The council heard a presentation regarding plans for the Triangle Bikeway from Iona Thomas, vice president for Strategy and Public Client Development for design and engineering services company McAdams.
- The project has nine goals: equity, regional collaboration, feasibility, connection to jobs, transportation choice, identity, safety, resiliency and public benefit and support.
- The Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHC-MPO) supported the Triangle Bikeway study and the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO).
- “The Triangle Bikeway study, which was completed about this time last year, was a collaboration between DCHC and CAMPO,” Thomas said.
- Most of the study was conducted in 2020 and it found that citizens preferred a variety of options when it came to transportation.
- “The biggest change is that citizens want a combination of modes, so it isn’t that they want to always make a trip on foot, always make a trip on bike, always make a trip by car or bus,” Thomas said.
- Chapel Hill Town Council member Paris Miller-Foushee said e-bikes are essential to the Town’s goals to expand biking infrastructure and said they make biking more accessible.
- “From a local standpoint, some of our goals and priorities around making our communities more walkable and bikeable are more progressive than what we see in the state sometimes," Miller-Foushee said.
- The Town Council heard a presentation about the Great Trails State Coalition from Thomas who requested that Chapel Hill join the coalition for 2023.
- “The coalition is a very broad, very diverse group of entities that are interested in trails of all types,” Thomas said.
- The group views North Carolina as the Great Trail State, where all areas can profit from the variety of benefits from trails such as health, economic development, tourism and environmental protection.
- Council member Amy Ryan expressed her appreciation for the work of this group to begin this work.
What decisions were made?
- The Town Council unanimously voted to adopt an issuance of two-thirds bonds to fund public safety equipment.
- The Town Council approved the plan to close a portion of the public right-of-way of Ginger Road within the Weavers Grove Development.
- The Town Council unanimously voted to support the regional implementation of the Triangle Bikeway.
- The Town Council unanimously voted to join the Great Trails State Coalition in 2023.
- The Town Council unanimously voted to widen U.S. Highway 15-501 and remove N.C. 54 corridor improvement project from STIP.
- The Town Council appointed Michelle Stewart to the Environmental Stewardship Advisory Board.
- The Town Council will reconvene next Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.