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15-501 Corridor Improvements: Facts and Observations

By Connie McAdams
Posted Sunday, January 4, 2004

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Fact: NC Department Of Transportation has proposed building a new 2-lane road around Pittsboro to relieve congestion and truck traffic on 15-501 through downtown Pittsboro. DOT has 10 proposed alternative routes. The Town of Pittsboro has announced its preference for only routes A, B, and C on the western side of town, all outside of the town limits. The road would be about 7 miles long and would cost an estimated $68.5 million of our already insufficient tax dollars. Many families would lose their homes beginning in 2010 with the onset of right-of-way acquisition.

There is no reasonable justification for the proposed new road.

Observation: Traffic "congestion" in downtown Pittsboro is limited, and truck traffic is almost non-existent. I work in downtown Pittsboro, and even though I'm in town every day, I hardly ever see the kinds of traffic problems that have been identified as justification for a $68.5 million "corridor improvement project."

Observation: Based on my own unscientific "research" in my Corolla, I have determined that using the current 15-501, the distance between the stoplight at Northwood, and the intersection with 15-501 and Charlie Brooks Road, is 5.8 miles. Averaging the driving time of two trips (one in each direction, and including a stop for "one lane closed ahead" for tree work), I easily covered the distance in 8.5 minutes, and still drove within the speed limit.

I also measured the time and distance between Northwood and Charlie Brooks Road using the 64 bypass and the 87 connector. That distance was about 8.5 miles and the driving time averaged 10.5 minutes.

I used Northwood and Charlie Brooks Road as reference points because they are the approximate beginning and ending positions of several of the 10 alternative routes proposed by DOT. I assume that the maximum speed limit on a new two-lane road would be 55 mph. Using an approximate distance of 7 miles for calculation purposes, I determined that it would take 7.63 minutes (somebody please check my math) to travel between Northwood and Charlie Brooks Road on the new "corridor improvement".

So if you're used to driving through downtown Pittsboro, on an ordinary day, the new route would be at least a mile or two longer, and would save less than one minute in driving time! Even if you normally use the 64 bypass and 87 connector, the new road would probably save less than two miles and less than three minutes.

Question: Is this ridiculous or what?! Am I missing something really obvious?

Conclusion: What seems obvious to me is that there is no reasonable justification for the proposed new road. The "congestion" used by DOT to illustrate need is exaggerated. The benefit (saving less than one minute per trip) is miniscule! The cost is staggering. To spend $68.5 million
in tax dollars on something that is not necessary or beneficial would be a terrible waste of scarce resources. Uprooting dozens of families from their homes for something that is not necessary or beneficial is unforgivable. Destroying the environment is permanent.

Action: What can we do? What happens to this project is up to each one of us individually. I encourage everybody who cares about Chatham County or North Carolina, to get informed about this issue, and then to voice your opinions to all of our government leaders and to NCDOT. Make it a New Year's Resolution to let your voice be heard. Be sure your friends and neighbors are aware of this situation so they can speak out too. Let me know if you need contact names, numbers, addresses, etc.


PS: I got a message from Ellie Kinnaird this weekend. She said she had heard from many Chatham County residents on this subject. Keep up the good work! If Ellie is replaced as the Senator representing Chatham through the redistricting process, Wib Gulley, from Durham, will probably
be the Senator representing Chatham. I just discovered that Wib Gulley is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations on Department of Transportation. He might be a good person to contact too.

CORRECTION - Posted 1/16/04
My apologies for spreading inaccurate information. Some information I took to be true, was slightly incorrect. I thought the Town of Pittsboro had made a specific recommendation to DOT. In fact, according to Dave Monroe, Pittsboro Town Planner, the Town of Pittsboro has not declared a preference among any of the 10 proposed routes for the 15-501 corridor improvement project. The Town Planning Board did voice a preference for routes A, B, and C, however the Pittsboro Board of
Commissioners chose not to make that recommendation to DOT. Instead they wrote to DOT expressing a general endorsement of the 15-501 Corridor Improvement project, without any preference.

This makes little difference except it makes the odds a little better for me, and a little worse for folks on the east side of Pittsboro. I am still extremely opposed to the project for all the reasons I mentioned earlier. I just wanted to set the record straight.

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