Exactly two weeks after a “road diet” plan was unveiled for North Main/Renfro streets, city officials are scheduled to decide if it will be on the menu for Mount Airy motorists.
The proposal by the N.C. Department of Transportation would reduce the lanes of travel from four to two in each direction — while adding a center turn lane and bike lanes on either side of the roadway. It has arisen in connection with the upcoming resurfacing of the portion of that corridor running from Lebanon Street to Independence Boulevard.
Such a format has the name “road diet” because the size of the roadway is being compressed, with traffic slowed down as a result.
These changes are best implemented when repaving occurs, DOT officials say, since they can be incorporated with the re-striping that is required.
Eventually, the same configuration for the now-four-lane corridor could be extended south along Renfro and Main streets to the Ararat River bridge at Bannertown.
But that is only if local officials give their authorization to the plan, a vote on which is scheduled during a Thursday meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners. It is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. in the council chambers of the Municipal Building.
Also slated at Thursday’s meeting is a decision regarding a circulator route, or van shuttle service, that an area public-transportation agency is proposing to operate in Mount Airy. It has drawn fire from local taxicab operators.
“Road Diet” Indigestion?
Since the road diet proposal was unveiled at the commissioners’ last meeting on July 19, city officials report receiving many comments from citizens about the plan.
“The road change, I’ve heard tremendous feedback on that,” Commissioner Dean Brown, the senior member of the city board, said Monday.
“All the feedback has been against making single lanes where the double lanes are,” said Brown, who had expressed concern about the proposal on July 19.
He said then that older drivers coming from the north end of town often travel at slow speeds, even 12 miles per hour, but other motorists can now pass them when they reach the intersection of North Main and Lebanon streets.
This would not be possible if the road diet plan is put into effect.
“Still, I think a lot of people don’t understand what they are trying to do,” Brown acknowledged in reference to the intent of DOT officials.
A similar change was implemented earlier along East Atkins Street, which leads into downtown Dobson from U.S. 601. As a result, accidents have been reduced, a DOT representative has said.
One goal of the plan for Mount Airy would be improved safety for pedestrians at First Baptist Church and Reeves Community Center.
Transportation studies have shown that the overall traffic volume of the North Main/Renfro corridor has dropped over the years, apparently a result of economic factors such as local plant closings.
While believing it to be well-intended, Brown thinks problems would result from the change at peak periods, such as when school traffic is on local roadways in the mornings.
“They haven’t checked traffic at school times,” the commissioner said of DOT counts of vehicle volume. “They’re just doing average numbers, and the numbers are lower — but when the streets are busy, they’re busy.”
Van Plan Vote
Also on Thursday’s agenda is another transportation-related item for the city commissioners’ consideration. It involves a letter of support requested from the municipal government for Yadkin Valley Economic Development District Inc. (YVEDDI) to seek grant assistance from the N.C. Department of Transportation.
The transportation division of YVEDDI wants to use the money to launch a “circulator” route that would utilize a 19-passenger van to transport riders to key locations in Mount Airy at $1 per trip for the general public.
It would include a series of regular pickups at locations such as elder housing and low-income neighborhoods and stops at Walmart, medical facilities, city parks and other strategic sites. One would be the park-and-ride lot of a regional bus service, thus allowing users of the YVEDDI program to also access destinations such as Winston-Salem.
However, some local citizens — including cab operators — say the government-subsidized transportation service would put their private businesses at a competitive disadvantage and force them to close.
YVEDDI officials, on the other hand, contend that the circulator route would help people needing such a program who “typically do not use the taxi services because of the cost.”
“I can see both sides of that situation,” Commissioner Brown said Monday, acknowledging that there are people in Mount Airy who lack transportation.
“I understand the dilemma with the taxi drivers, and I understand what YVEDDI is trying to do.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.