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Chapel Hill receives $1 million grant for new transportation projects, greenways

A woman walks down a path in Umstead Park by the Bolin Creek Trail on Monday, April 4, 2022.

The Town of Chapel Hill received a Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity — or RAISE — grant for $1,000,000 on June 23.

RAISE grants, which are funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, are intended to help communities across the U.S. pursue new transportation infrastructure projects.

This grant will allow the Town to work towards “​​increasing mobility, access, and safety for all residents through a network of connected greenways that will transform development patterns and transportation in Chapel Hill,” according to the Town's grant proposal. 

Bergen Watterson, Chapel Hill’s transportation planning manager, said the main project that the Town prioritized in their grant proposal was a feasibility study on over 25 miles of proposed greenways.

The feasibility study will look at the proposed greenways and analyze environmental, community, social and financial factors to ensure each greenway follows the best path possible. 

“At the end of the study, we will have a package of 25 miles of greenways that are ready to move into the design phase,” Watterson said. 

She said this comprehensive approach to greenway analysis and planning won’t be possible without the RAISE grant.

“We are almost strictly reliant on federal funding to build these kinds of projects,” she said. “They are hugely expensive projects.” 

N.C. Rep. Allen Buansi (D-Orange) said the grant will play a big role in connecting greenways throughout Chapel Hill. Buansi wrote a letter of support for the grant proposal.

“It is a really huge deal because this means that Chapel Hill has more money to work with, to make further connections between greenways ultimately, in the service of ensuring that our residents have other ways to get from point A to point B,” he said.

In his letter of support, Buansi said Chapel Hill was an attractive candidate for the grant because of the Town’s prior commitment to supporting alternative transportation systems.

“I think the presence and investment that the Town of Chapel Hill has put into programs like Chapel Hill Transit made Chapel Hill an attractive recipient of these funds,” he said.

N.C. Rep. Renée Price (D-Caswell, Orange) also wrote a letter of support for the grant proposal.

She said an investment in new greenways will be beneficial as Chapel Hill continues to grow. 

“I think it is good for mental health and physical health,” she said. “As we continue to build up and build out, we need to have these kinds of spaces to decompress and find relief.” 

Molly De Marco, a board member of NEXT, said a connected greenway system would be great for both the physical and mental health of the community.

“Getting people out walking, biking, rolling, is so important to get your heart rate up and keep your flexibility,” she said. “It's also so good for our mental health, to be out in nature to be where it's quieter and where the air is clean.”

De Marco said that these greenways will also contribute to Chapel Hill becoming a more sustainable community. 

“This will be huge for sustainability in terms of reducing the amount of times we're actually getting in our car and driving somewhere because that puts a lot of greenhouse gas emissions out into our environment,” she said. 

@DTHCityState | 

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