Sunday, August 22, 2010

8/11/10 Council Meeting

I apologize for not posting my week in reviews as frequently as I would like, but with work, my council responsibilities, a campaign and trying to find some time for my family… well, there just haven’t been enough hours in the day.

This post will focus on our council meeting which was held on 8/11/10.

Our meeting had 2 notable discussion items: Consideration of a traffic light at the intersection of Kildaire Farm Road and Loch Highlands Drive, and whether or not to apply for a federal grant to assist with funding a section of the White Oak Greenway.

After NCDOT completed a road widening project and installed a new bridge on Kildaire Farm Road, citizens have been contacting the town regarding their concerns for pedestrian safety. The project resulted in an asphalt trail being removed that residents had used for safe pedestrian access. A new sidewalk was instead installed along the roadway and bridge. This section of road curves slightly, and residents feared that if a motorist took their eyes off the road for a second, or if a traffic accident occurred, vehicles could end up on the sidewalk – seriously injuring or killing a pedestrian. They asked the town to look into a guardrail or some other form of barrier.

Numerous attempts to work with NCDOT in an attempt to get a barrier installed failed. NCDOT was unwilling to modify the bridge, and informed Cary that any modifications would be the town’s responsibility as the bridge met state standards.

After further review, town staff recommended that a traffic signal with crosswalks be installed at the intersection of Kildaire Farm Road and Loch Highlands Drive. This would allow residents a safe manner in which to cross the street and use the multi-use path on the other side of the street…which has a concrete barrier between it and the road. Yes you read that correctly.

You see, NCDOT “cheaped out” on the bridge. The southbound side of the bridge was constructed with a multi-use path. However, in an effort to reduce costs that section of the bridge was not engineered to hold the weight of vehicles, so NCDOT installed a concrete barrier to prevent maintenance or emergency vehicles from parking on it. Nice huh?

After investigating numerous options, our town staff determined that installing the traffic signal would cost less than installing a parapet wall or barrier on the bridge, and once installed the signal becomes NCDOT’s responsibility. Staff’s traffic data also indicated that this intersection meets warrants for a traffic signal.

The traffic signal was approved by a vote of 6-1. I voted against it. While I do support the signal installation, I have grave concerns regarding next year’s budget and economic outlook. If this is truly a “need to have”, which I believe it is, then we should be willing to give up a “nice to have” to fund it. I also believe, as does our town staff, that we have numerous pedestrian safety issues throughout town (the bridge on Walnut Street at Crossroads and the lack of a crosswalk and sidewalks on Cary Parkway near North Cary Park are two that come to mind) that might be of higher priority. Without conducting a study there is no way to know.

I made a motion to table this for 2 weeks to give staff time to determine which already funded project(s) we could postpone to cover costs. No one supported my request.

Prior to this decision the council considered whether or not to apply for a $2.7 million federal grant to fund a section of the White Oak Greenway….in Apex’s jurisdiction. Yes Apex. If Cary receives the grant we are on the hook for $675,000 to cover our portion of the project. The decision to apply for the grant passed by a vote of 5-2. Councilman Smith and I voted no.

$850,000 spent in about 20 minutes.

I like greenways as much as anyone, but these are difficult times we’re living in folks, and I don’t see it getting better any time soon. Sure, $2.7 million in “free money” might sound hard to pass up. But I fear, as Councilman Smith so eloquently stated, “that we could go broke trying to save money”. Hopefully we are wrong.

That’s it for now – as always, thanks for reading!