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Survey: Neighbors want transit, streetscape improvements on New Bern Avenue

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As the city moves toward a makeover on New Bern Avenue, neighbors have identified priorities for the types of upgrades they'd most like to see.

Transportation ranked as the top concern for 33.7 percent of residents, according to an online survey on the city's website that attracted 385 responses.

The city is exploring long-term transit options for the corridor, a busy link between downtown and WakeMed. The two types of technology under consideration are streetcars and bus rapid transit.  A streetcar system would not extend far outside of the Beltline. However, BRT service could continue eastward to Knightdale and beyond.

Streetscape improvements also ranked high on the list (21.8 percent), with residents indicating they want spruced-up landscaping and better sidewalks, curbs and gutters along the aging road.

The other areas of focus and the percentage of responses were: Public safety, 19.0; land use, 16.1; stormwater 5.5; and cultural heritage (preservation of historic sites), 3.9.

The city has held three public workshops for residents and merchants to share their ideas and visions for renewing the New Bern Avenue corridor, which serves as Raleigh's eastern entrance.

With the right mix of changes, planners hope to create what they call a "spectacular and innovative gateway" that can serve as a model for urban street design. The N&O reported on the possibilities in a July 27 story in the Midtown Raleigh News.

There's talk of a 60-foot "super transit strip" with a sidewalk, bike path and gravel jogging path on the south side of the corridor.

Neighbors dream of seeing the Longview Shopping Center, once home to a Winn-Dixie, redeveloped as a walkable urban village with a farmers' market.

An economic analysis by the city cited "abundant untapped spending power" from WakeMed employees and hospital visitors. Eighteen percent of the study area is "poised for private sector-led redevelopment, " the study found.

While the long-term planning effort unfolds, beleaguered bus passengers may find a more immediate opportunity for relief.

Raleigh voters will decide Oct. 11 on a $40 million transportation bond focused largely on sidewalks, street resurfacing and greenway additions.

Buried in the proposal is $750,000 for bus stop benches and shelters - enough to pay for more than 40 sites across the city, planners say.

In addition, Raleigh has secured about $530,000 in federal aid to build 40 more shelters over two years. The money represents a major boost; in the past three years, crews have installed 34 shelters.

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