By John Peters
August 14, 2013
To the Editor,
Earlier this year our city board voted for a consultant to do a study for pedestrian walkways and (maybe) bikeways. The study has been completed and the date for a public hearing set for this Thursday (8/15). The hearing is for the public to say what they think about the plans shown in the study … but the consultant did not provide a way for citizens to see the study until today (Tuesday, Aug. 13)!
The study is 66 pages long and includes major recommendations and complex drawings that could affect many areas of town and many intersections. The cost of the study was $30,000 with the city paying $10,000 and NC DOT (Department of Transportation) paying the rest … but all of it is from taxpayers. The study is dated June 2013 and copies were provided to our city board but there were none for the public. With the hearing this Thursday and the 66 page study only just now being made available there is no way the average citizen can have an informed opinion.
Many probably are not aware of this study being done and some may think it doesn’t matter. I recognize the study is not an actual commitment but if accepted it would become part of the city’s long term master plan and then could be gradually implemented. I’ve only had time to scan it briefly but here are some things I think citizens should consider:
The study comes from a part of NC DOT called “Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation.” This sounds a lot like the people who just last year wanted the city to put bike lanes on parts of Renfro Street which would have made it a two-lane street.
The plans mention “traffic calming” which is DOT’s fancy term for reducing lanes and slowing everything down.
It also shows at least two crosswalks on Highway 52 (one is at 601 and 52), which seems a dangerous idea.
There is a proposed drawing for yet another mini park on Cherry Street.
It suggests speed bumps, traffic islands, and major changes for pedestrians at several intersections. These features may take reducing traffic lane size.
It shows we already have 30 miles of sidewalks and estimates the cost of additional new sidewalks at $740,000 per mile.
I don’t know if it says anything about new bike lanes but it does come from a part of DOT that has “bicycle” in its name. DOT was pushing hard last year for bike lanes on Renfro Street. Most plans for bike lanes take space either from curbside parking or from traffic lanes.
Walking is great exercise and everyone likes sidewalks but we have to be practical. These DOT studies are going on all over the state and major money is being spent on consultants. It seems to me that DOT would do well to work on potholes and worn out bridges before spending more on sidewalk (and bicycle) issues.
I urge citizens to go to the city website (mountairy.org) and see for themselves what is in the study. Considering the information was not available to public until today I urge our commissioners to delay the public hearing to give citizens time to learn about it. After all, we don’t need to wait until we pass it to see what’s in it. Let your Commissioners know what you think.