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Transportation Board member resigns over Walgreens plan

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Last week, the Town Council went against the recommendations of some of its advisory boards when it approved a new Walgreens pharmacy at the corner of Estes Drive and East Franklin Street.

As a result, Transportation Board member Roger Lundblad resigned, effective immediately.

"The recent decision ... totally ignores the considerations of the Transportation Board  suggests that the various boards are, at best, impotent," Lundblad wrote to Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. "I am too busy to waste my time on ineffectual activity."

Both the Planning Board and the Transportation Board had endorsed traffic islands on both South Estes Drive and East Franklin Street to prevent lefthand turns into and out of the Walgreens on both side. But complaints from Caribou Coffee, which would also have been affected by the South Estes median, led the council to drop that traffic island in favor of a "porkchop" within the Walgreens driveway. That will prevent lefthand turns into and out of Walgreens but won't stop them at Caribou across the street.

The entire Transportation Board and some members of the Planning Board had asked for a longer median on South Estes than town staff had proposed. They wanted it to block lefthand turns to and from not only Walgreens and Caribou but also other driveways farther south on Estes. The boards had also endorsd bicycle-activated traffic signals at the intersection so that cyclists don't have to wait for an automobile's weight to trigger a green light, but that was stripped from the final approval in lieu of $4,000 for additional traffic study.

Transportation Board chairman Augustus Cho said the council's decision failed to anticipate future traffic needs.

"Particularly egregious is the movement of the fund[s] for bicycle [signal installation] to a traffic pattern study," Lundblad wrote in an e-mail to Cho. "You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that intersection is a problem and it is not clear what a further study would do except validate the board recommendations. Failure to approve bicycle activation appears go against a desire to reduce automobile traffic."

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Transportation Board

Transportation Board Chairman Augustus Cho asked me to post this comment for him:

"A point of clarification: The Transportation Board appreciates and supports Walgreens for investing in Chapel Hill; the representatives of Walgreens have gone beyond what is required in a number of areas in their application to develop and improve the corner of Estates Drive & East Franklin Street.

The process of decision making:

The Transportation Board makes recommendations to the Town Council based upon what is in the greater interest of all of the citizens in Chapel Hill for the present and the future and not specific groups, patrons or individual businesses at the time of petition. This approach applied in this case as well.

With that premise in mind, the Transportation Board supported Walgreen's and their researched proposal, which included NCDOT and the town traffic engineer recommendations to handle the traffic patterns (including pedestrian and bicycles) at that challenging intersection and the immediate vicinity. The re-allocation of the payment-in-lieu for additional study seems redundant - thereby an unwise expenditure of limited resources - since that research was completed for the initial presentations to the various boards for their approval.

I commend our board members for the time and energy they devote to the transportation, bike & pedestrian safety, along with other transit issues of Chapel Hill.

I thank Roger for his time and service on the board; his longevity as a Chapel Hill resident and familiarity with transit matters have provided invaluable input."

Ahh

Chapel Hill government at its best.  Gotta love it.

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About the blogger

Jesse James DeConto is the government reporter for Chapel Hill and Orange County for The News & Observer and The Chapel Hill News.
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