Project 20/10: TTA rail derailed (#17)

It wasn't a bad morning to head to Raleigh to do some research at the state archives. A quick DATA bus ride downtown to the Durham Station transit center, then a walk across the sweet pedestrian bridge over Chapel Hill Street to catch the TTA rail line. Then it was on the light rail system for a quiet ride past downtown and East Durham, before the ride along the rail corridor through RTP, Cary, the NC State area and finally downtown Raleigh.

Tta_rail  And an enjoyable trip it was, having time to catch up on the morning newspaper while typing away on the laptop. The train was clean and well-traveled, with a mix of daily commuters and families making their way along the region. 

Most impressive: the Triangle Metro Center, where office and retail space is really filling up in what's now being called the modern heart of RTP as light rail has created a new dense center between the cities.

...wait, I'm totally kidding. We don't have a stinkin' rail system here.

Yes, the scenario above is what many dreamed of in the Triangle, worked for for years. And at the end of the 1990s, it was widely thought that Durhamites and Raleighites would be shuttling along a rail system well-established by the time 2010 rolled around.

But a funny thing happened on the way to a rail system. The project got shot down after the Federal Transit Administration changed the rules for federal New Starts funding just as the Triangle Transit plan was about to be evaluated.

A few years later, transit supporters have regrouped, creating the STAC plan for a mix of rail and bus service in the Triangle. 

But there's plenty of reasons to believe that the core concept of the 2000s plan for transit -- a direct-connection run built out between North Raleigh and Duke via Cary, RTP and Durham -- will end up being replaced by a set of regional transit systems that might just link up, someday... and leaving RTP last when it comes to the kind of dense, transit-oriented development the Park needs most.

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Project 20/10: Eno Drive killed as Durham shakes up transportation priorities (#18)

As the N&O noted in its 2003 coverage of the event, planners of that summer's Festival on the Eno had a bigger reason than usual to celebrate.

After decades of planning, debating, bickering and fighting over the proposed Eno Drive loop project -- slated to be a freeway/parkway connection from I-85 in northeastern Durham County to I-85 near the Durham/Orange border -- the General Assembly passed a change to the 1989 state Highway Trust Fund enabling legislation that pulled the controversial road off that fund's enabling legislation.

Durham_lrtp The law replaced the Eno Drive plan with a series of proposals negotiated by local government leaders and NCDOT after a firestorm of negotiation and community discussion, with then-first-term Mayor Bill Bell getting much of the credit for brokering the compromise.

The Eno Drive drew a host of complaints from residents and environmentalists, particularly over its proposed segment west of Roxboro Rd., which Eno-lovers argued would have devastated the Eno River waterway and parks as well as neighborhoods in its path.

In the place of Eno Drive came a collection of individual road projects. First up would be the East End Connector, a mini-loop relieving Durham's central neighborhood roads -- and now, with the construction of the NC540/Triangle Parkway toll road, the last link in a freeway connection from the US 1 corridor near Holly Springs to I-85.

Also on the list would be the widening and upgrading of US 70 as a freeway from the East End Connector to the Wake County line, followed by I-85's widening north of US 70 to Red Mill Road. 

Then would come the Northern Durham Parkway -- the remaining eastern vestige of the Eno Drive corridor -- a two-to-four lane road running from near Treyburn down past I-85 along Durham's eastern side to US 70. 

Northern Durham Parkway can be seen in the dotted gray line shown along that corridor in the map from the Durham area's long-range transportation plan, seen above. (Click the image to view full-size.)

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Project 20/10: Glimmers of life in East Durham (#19)

East_durham If our twentieth-ranked story of the past decade (the end for good of cigarette manufacturing) was low-ranked on the list only because it was a story twenty years in coming that stumbled into the aughts, our nineteenth-ranked selection made it here largely because it's a story that's in its incipient phases, a tale of public and now private investment whose payoff won't be fully realized for years to come.

And it's a fitting counterpoint to the story of the tobacco industry's end in the Bull City, since it involves a region of town that was once largely working-class housing for factory workers and their families, a section whose own fortunes suffered and faded with those of the employment centers where generations toiled.

East Durham -- a region we'll define as east of downtown, stretching to the US 70/Miami corridor -- is still not even close to what one might call an economically recovered portion of Durham. Yet the 2000s saw early green-shoots growth towards the district's comeback.

Those off-shoots include the new Golden Belt arts complex and the beginning of a transformation in Cleveland-Holloway, just north and east of downtown -- plus the arrival of the John O'Daniel business incubator on Gilbert St. near SEEDS, a new grocery store under construction at the Angier-Driver intersection, and Preservation Durham's work to create the East Durham Historic District, opening the door to renovation tax credits.

And, perhaps most significantly, local government's redevelopment of the onetime hotspot for crime and drugs in Durham, the Barnes Avenue and Few Gardens area, since rechristened Eastway Village.

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Project 20/10: Cigarette manufacturing comes to an end (#20)

In many ways, it's an historical accident that cigarette manufacturing ended in Durham in the twenty-first century -- though for purposes of neatly bookending events, it works out nicely.

Liggett_complex_sky After all, brightleaf tobacco gave the Bull City its raison d'ĂȘtre, and eventually its Bull Durham-branded moniker, in the 1800s.

The industrialization of manufacturing, and its consolidation into the American Tobacco Company in the pre-antitrust days, dominated the first half of the 1900s -- in 1944, Durham produced just under half of all American-made cigarettes.

Yet the decline in American cigarette manufacturing, concomitant with the fall in U.S. smoking participation rates, marked a key event in Durham's second half-century.

By the dawn of the twenty-first century, that core part of Durham's industrial heritage was finally ending for good.

The 2000s opened with the last of Durham's tobacco manufacturing days ending, a move that finally brought one million square feet of old factory and warehouse space on the west side of downtown Durham (visible behind the SouthBank building in the photo above) back into play.

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BCR's Project 20/10: An introduction

As we look ahead to 2010, Bull City Rising is taking a look back at the first decade of the twenty-first century in Durham.

We've done year-ending best-of lists here in the past, but this time around, in honor of the arrival of 2010 we're looking to suggest a list of the twenty most important stories of the past ten years in Durham.

Some individual events -- 2002's ice storm, the Duke lacrosse case -- stand out as significant enough to receive individual attention. But in most cases, we'll be looking at stories from the lens of trends, sequences of events or direction that collectively shaped the Bull City over the past ten years.

In those cases, we're giving particular attention to stories that indelibly marked breaks from the past, or which portend significant changes for life in Durham in the coming decade or two. What are the events that have shaped our community, or will shape them?

Some of them will come as no surprise. Others represent collections of individual events and movements that individually are of smaller impact, but combine to create a more powerful trend out of this decade and influencing tomorrow's Durham.

As always, your comments are welcome. The Project 20/10 series will run from now through New Year's Day.