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Town of Chapel Hill receives $2 million to improve downtown streetscape

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Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, North Carolina is pictured on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. Chapel Hill has been awarded $2 million from Community Project Funding that will go towards downtown streetscape improvements.

The Town of Chapel Hill recently received $2 million in Community Project Funding to be put toward downtown streetscape improvements.

These funds were apportioned through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022, which provided over $200 million in grants to transit infrastructure projects nationwide. Other North Carolina recipients included the City of Greensboro, the City of High Point, the Town of Zebulon and the Town of Garner.

According to Dwight Bassett, the director of economic development and parking services for Chapel Hill, the Town initially requested funding last spring through the office of now-retired U.S. Rep. David Price, who was on the House Appropriations Committee at the time. Price will be honored at an upcoming town council meeting for his service to Chapel Hill.

Mayor Pam Hemminger said that Price himself was surprised he secured the funding.

“He's somebody who's been around a long time, and he really is good at making sure that the needs of people he represents are met,” Adam Searing, a member of the Chapel Hill Town Council, said.

Bassett said that the funds will likely be spent on small improvements.

“100 percent of it is dedicated to streetscape improvement and includes things you probably never noticed,” Bassett said.

For example, the poles holding traffic lights at the intersection of Columbia Street and Franklin Street are currently made up of wood and steel. The Town would like to replace these with mast arm poles like those on Columbia Street and Rosemary Street.

Town Council member Michael Parker said this change would allow the Town to get rid of guy-wires that can obstruct pedestrians on Franklin Street.

“We've longed for a long time to be able to replace those poles with mast arms because it would look cleaner and be much better,” Bassett said.

Bassett also said the remaining funds will likely be put toward filling gaps in previous streetscape projects.

As part of this process, the Town will be conducting a mobility study using ARPA money in order to lay out a streetscape enhancement plan that will set goals for the Town’s improvements. 

“We are hopeful that the plan shows us the things we need to do that we could use some of these dollars for the community project — the $2 million — to help with those infrastructure changes,” Hemminger said.

The scheduled improvements may also include small accessibility changes, such as curb cutting for those who use wheelchairs or strollers, according to Searing.

“During the pandemic, we had a lot more restaurants or small businesses having people eating outside and we need to make some adjustments with that,” Searing said.

According to Bassett, no other streetscape improvements will proceed until after the study has concluded, in order to make sure that this new design will not interfere with other projects.

“We're super excited about it,” Bassett said. “This will take us a long way toward finishing our original streetscape and also help us begin to move forward to enhance our streetscape.”

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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