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East End Connector NCDOT session tonight

Great news on Duke/Gregson traffic calming

Mike Woodard just posted some terrific news to some Durham listservs concerning the push for traffic calming on Duke and Gregson Streets.  Looks like the City has persuaded NCDOT to act on implementing many of the final traffic calming efforts recommended by a professional study several years ago -- those impacting Duke/Gregson, which at times resemble freeways during the daily commute.  Tragically, it's taken the recent fatality of Deborah Culmer on Duke Street to get the state moving on this.  Yet, moving they are.

See below the cut for the details, but in a nutshell: "neckdowns," or protrusions from the curb that will serve to narrow the perceived width of the roadways at intersections and promote slower speeds, have been approved and jointly funded by NCDOT and the City.  The City's working on improved lighting, improved parking stripes, and more advisory signs in limited sight distance areas.  A reduction in speed limit to 30 miles/hour is also possible.

Real praise is due Mark Ahrendsen from Durham's transportation office and Eugene Brown and Mike Woodard of the City Council for making this happen.  The wheels of government have turned quickly over the last few weeks, if sadly -- at the state level -- a few years too late.

Below, the email from Mike Woodard & Eugene Brown in full:

Several years ago the City commissioned a traffic calming study for the Trinity Park neighborhood. The bulk of the recommendations found in the final report have been implemented. The work on City-maintained streets included adding speed humps and traffic circles, installing four-way stops and additional pedestrian signals, and lowering the speed limit on Watts Street.

Last week we met with Mark Ahrendsen, the City’s Transportation Manager, to discuss traffic calming measures along Duke and Gregson streets through the Trinity Park neighborhood. Mark has been in conversation with staff members from NCDOT about options to make this area safer. We are pleased to report that we have made some progress in implementing some of those options.

First, the City and NCDOT will install neckdowns on Duke and Gregson, one of the recommendations in the traffic calming study. NCDOT has authorized the installation of the neckdowns, and our local Board of Transportation member has authorized the expenditure of up to $150,000 toward their construction. The remaining costs will be paid by the City. Formal approval is expected at the Board meeting on February 1.

The locations of the neckdowns will be determined with input from neighbors and the Trinity Park Neighborhood Association. Parking is currently permitted on the left side of the street (west side on Duke, east side on Gregson). The traffic calming study recommended that neckdowns and parking be placed on the west side of both streets. This would change the location of parking on Gregson but not Duke. The City will want input from the neighborhood before changing the location of any parking.

Additionally, the City will:
(1) Install better lighting along Duke and Gregson. This might include more and brighter lights, particularly in those hilly stretches where cars often advance before their headlights. The City will work with Duke Energy on this measure.
(2) Mark better defined parking areas. The City will restripe the parking areas with solid lines rather than the existing limited markings to make the parking areas more visible and to more clearly define the travel lanes.
(3) Add advisory speed limit signs. The City will post signs informing drivers of a lower advisory speed, especially in those areas near the crests of hills and where sight distance is limited.
(4) Ask NCDOT to consider a 30 MPH speed limit along Duke and Gregson in the Trinity Park area.
Since Duke and Gregson are State-maintained roads, these City measures must have NCDOT approval. We expect a response from NCDOT in the next few weeks. Once we’ve received the approvals, the City will begin the implementation process: paperwork, community input, design, bidding, and construction. We expect this process would take a few months.

An action that citizens can take is to encourage NCDOT to move quickly on the design and construction of the East End Connector (EEC). While this will not have an immediate effect on traffic along Duke and Gregson, it will show NCDOT how important this road is for Durham’s future. The EEC will reduce traffic counts in Trinity Park almost as soon as it opens, so the faster it can be built the faster we will see a safer Duke and Gregson. Once fully installed, the EEC could divert thousands of cars from the Trinity Park Neighborhood.

NCDOT is conducting a citizens’ informational workshop on the EEC Tuesday, January 30, at the Living Waters Assembly Church, Highway 70 at Lynn Road. Citizens are invited to drop by anytime between 4 and 7 PM to learn more about the EEC and share their thoughts. In addition, the City Council has set aside time to receive public comments on the EEC at its next meeting, Monday, February 5, at 7 PM in City Hall. Both the workshop and the Council meeting are opportunities for citizens to urge NCDOT to make the EEC a top priority.

We hope this demonstrates our commitment to address the concerns raised by the recent communications we’ve received. Rest assured that we will continue to work with the City’s Transportation Department and NCDOT to make these streets safer.

Please feel free to contact us for more information or with other concerns.

Mike Woodard
Eugene A. Brown
    Durham City Council

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