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Traffic mess at Northwood and other emerging issues

By Efrain Ramirez
Posted Sunday, February 19, 2006

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Pittsboro, NC - This is a good debate; and one that requires close examination. There are a number of factors and concerns involved, not just the adequacy or inadequacy of the current driver education program. I will assume that the Driver Ed program is satisfactory and that Driver Ed instructors are doing a good job, considering the time that is available to them & the quantity & quality of the equipment (& students) at their disposal. Cannot comment further since I have no students in that program & no experience concerning the program.

The second factor/concern to me is the poor design of the interchange at US 64 By-pass & Us 15-501. Those merging on to 15-501 north have to immediately veer left, across two lanes of on-coming northbound traffic, so they can get on the left turn lane at the entrance into Northwood. That, plus the incredible back up in the left turn lane during peak morning time. It is almost backed up to the 15-501 overpass. Am not a civil engineer, so cannot comment on a better design. Seems though that the morning congestion getting into Northwood was not taken into consideration.

BUT WAIT! What will it be like when Lowe's Home Improvement mega box store opens ......... PLUS all the traffic in & out of Powell Place !! Ant there are still two undeveloped cornes to that interchange. Sheriff Richard Webster (is this area in the jurisdiction of the county or the Town of Pittsboro ?....... Part of the interchange is in the PBO ETJ) & / or Chief David Collins may have to add a few traffic control officers during peak AM & PM hours.

Thirdly, & perhaps most importantly is the overcrowded situation @ Northwood AND the LARGE number of students who drive themselves to school. Many of these vehicles have only one passenger. ............. Plus the teachers & administrators who have to drive to their jobs ............ Plus the many parents who drive their students because the bus drive from some sections of the county is so very long, &/or unruly students on the busses, etc. Perhaps one immediate possible solution is to connect driving privileges to discipline infractions @/in school. One or two strikes & you're out ........ back on the bus. Would assume that this is already in place to some extent. The back up is as much the delay into school @ the peak morning hour, while drivers park, chat & greet each other , cross from the parking area to the school, parents exit, etc.

Another factor/concern may be the lack of supervision/concern/ interest on behalf of some parents about HOW their children drive.
We see this every afternoon as they cruise through Pittsboro on the way south; or north to Cole Park etc. It's who can go the fastest; tail gait the most, with break lights blinking; or cut other drivers off as they pass car to car, lane to lane. A li'l time off .......
chill out from driving might could be a good idea.

NOW ! Consider the large influx of new students a coming to this area of the county. How many new residences have so far been approved during the last three+ years of the current "pro growth ...... we're bringing jobs & development to Chatham" county administration? Have I heard the number of 11,000? Or was it 10, 000! Either way, that is a massive influx of people and traffic & students into Chatham over a rather short period of time. It took Chatham how long to reach 40-50,000. Now we are going to probably double that in 10-15 years. I guess there is enough land to absorb all the overflow from Wake, Durham, some of Orange (& don't forget down the line Lee, Alamance & perhaps even Guillford in the northwest quadrant). All y'all who have so far escaped the current land rush (lots of $$$$ to be made) in Chatham don't feel too comfortable & smug. It will soon be coming to a neighborhood, pasture or stand of woods near you. What is now in the east & northeast will next be in the NW, the west & SW. Pack your shorts Mark. One morning you'll wake up & it will be in your back yard.

Cary also lusts after everything between Wake/Chatham line up to the shores of OUR lake that supplies all their water. It was once THREE (3) municipalities in Chatham ........Goldston, Pittsboro & Siler City. Now we have a 4th municipality in Chatham ...... CARY! Cary
will supply "their" part of Chatham with public services/public safety. But whose responsibility will it be to educate those Cary Children within Chatham County's borders ?

Three plus years of approving just about every development that comes north on I95, or lands @ RDU, or travels east on US64. But what provisions have so far been made (or much worse even planned) for this massive movement of rooftops to Chatham. Seems I read every day, or hear on the morning & evening news about one crisis or another in Wake county concerning schools. The need for more & more bond issues to pay for more & more schools. The building of more & more schools to educate more & more students coming into the area. Constant reshuffling of students from one school to the other. Crisis after crisis resulting from dramatic, unplanned growth. Traffic! Water! Solid & waste water disposal! Of course, "if you built it" (residential developments) "they will come"! The great American Dream! Owning your own home on or near a golf course! And The Triangle / Triad are in such an attractive area ...... North Carolina! I came 21 years ago. Fortunate me. I should share my dream with others. Don't blame all them who want to enjoy what I have enjoyed & cherished for 21 years.

But darn! Seems to me that Larry Hicks & Bill Lail & Sonya Wilson (& I) & a bunch of other very talented & civic minded citizens spent hundreds/thousands of hours in '95-'96 working on something called the Strategic Plan for Chatham County. This continued under the tutelage & guidance of of Larry Hicks & many others so that WE WOULD PLAN FOR & BE PREPARED for the growth that was coming (LUPIC). For what ?? So that it could all be skewered, screwed, changed, adjusted to fit the needs of those coming to develop, as opposed to the needs of those who lived here already & ALL those who are coming!

Yes! Yes! There is a serious problem getting into Nortwood HS in the mornings. Eventually it may also be dangerous; if not already. Those commuting on the new (5 + years to complete) 13 mile four lane highway to N. Chatham & Chapel Hill will have to be very careful, and very patient. Those turning into & leaving Northwood, likewise. And it would do well for the State Troopers, County Sheriff & PBO PD to strategically locate a few cruisers N & S of Northwood in the mornings & afternoons. The kids come out flexing their testosterone (or other hormones appropriate to the gentler sex), showing off how good they are at accelerating (0 to 60 + in ??). It is not just students either. Many adults exceed speed considerably once they hit
4 lanes.

And! Wait! Wait! Don't tell me! ......... TAXES!. Have been here for some 21 years. Over that period of time property taxes have remained relatively moderate. All those who complained so vehemently over the re evaluation that occurred some 5-6 years ago realize that property taxes in Chatham have not really risen dramatically, Whereas, because of all that rampant growth around us, taxes are going up & up! So, lets all move to Chatham. Taxes are "cheep her". And all those surrounding counties have a strong commercial AND industrial base to keep their taxes somewhat reasonable. Look at Lee county; in comparison to Chatham ?? Where or where has economic development been for Chatham, other then residential roof tops & a couple of big box stores ?

Think about all these factors/concerns that affect the traffic @ Northwood every morning as you drive north on the new & improved & expanded 15-501. Think of what its going to be like next year & the year after that, etc. I wonder if they are having similar problems @ Jordan Matthews or Chatham Central ? Yet??

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