By Jesse Wood
Oct. 4, 2012. Have you noticed the construction taking place on Wilson Drive, which connects N.C. 105 to the Boone Mall?
It is part of the expansion of the Greenway Trail, which currently exists on the west side of Boone near the wastewater treatment plant on the South Fork of the New River and runs underneath U.S. 321 near Burger King.
The Wilson Drive addition is the first of four phases that will connect N.C. 105 at Wilson Drive to where the Greenway Trail ends near the underpass at U.S. 321. (See map below.)
First Phase: Wilson Drive
Second Phase: Wilson Drive to Deck Hill Road
Third Phase: Deck Hill Road to Meadowview Drive
Fourth Phase: Meadowview Road to Pride Drive
The Wilson Drive portion started earlier this year and will be finished by the end of the year, and the following phases have not been scheduled or funded to date. These four phases are among 56 sidewalk projects outlined in a 2012 Sidewalk Priorities spreadsheet provided to High Country Press by Public Works Director Blake Brown.
The Wilson Drive project contract was awarded to Blythe Development for $248,414 and approved by the Boone Town Council in January 2012. The project includes widening the road for bike lanes, installation of sidewalks and a culvert extension.
The project has been in the making for years.
“Part of the extension of the Greenway got some DOT commitment several years ago. It’s come up a number of years, but [just now] finally got to fruition,” Town Manager Greg Young said.
Young added that it’s a lengthy process because of N.C. Department of Transportation and federal requirements, funding issues, engineering approval, modifications of the culvert design, property right-of-way acquisition, public comments and review of those comments and then the authorization to start construction.
As for the start and completion of the other phases that will connect N.C. 105 to the underpass near Kmart, Young said there is no timeframe or funding for those projects yet.
“It’s all a matter of money,” Young said. “The Boone Town Council prioritizes where to place sidewalks …and [those] will be constructed based on those priorities.”
The Greenway Trail Expansion is all part of making Boone a more pedestrian and bike friendly town. In a survey for the 2011 Town of Boone Pedestrian Plan, less than 2 percent of respondents said that Boone had excellent pedestrian conditions while more than 42 percent rated those conditions poor. 85 percent of those surveyed also said that lack of sidewalks and trails discouraged walking.
“It’s been a priority for the council for a long time. They’ve gone after walkable community awards and put an emphasis on greenways and sidewalks for a long time,” Young said. “It’s certainly a priority set by them, and they’ve gone through efforts to increase funding.”
The Pedestrian Plan outlined the “greatest challenges to developing more pedestrian facilities and expanding the trail system” as a lack of funding, environmental concerns, trout streams, utilities, easements, and lack of influence on NCDOT owned and maintained roadways.
The plan also outlined the benefits. Economic benefits include the gas saved by walking through town instead of driving.
Environmental improvements include less pollutants in the air from less driving and also emphasized that greenway systems “protect and link fragmented habitats and provide opportunities for protecting plants and animals.”
Also, transportation benefits were listed that include the decongestion of traffic, referring to a National Household Transportation Survey that showed 40 percent of all car trips being less than 2 miles.
The plan also stated that the Greenway Trail Expansion, and pedestrian-friendly communities, positively impact the quality of life in general.
To view the Boone Pedestrian Plan in its entirity, click here: http://www.greenways.com/boone_download.html
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