Editor’s note: The town of Carrboro responded to this story with the following clarification:
“On Tuesday, May 10, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen asked the town attorney and town staff to work with the CHCSS, the CHHS cross country coaches, project design engineers and contractors to determine if an alternative surface will be eligible to use on trail crossings and if possible, to co-locate a portion of the path and cross country trail with the same alternative surface. Town staff was also directed to speak with contractors to minimize the width of canopy clearing, where possible, and to review all trail signage and stoppage materials with the cross country coaches.
The Carrboro Board of Aldermen will receive a report on the above mentioned items on Tuesday, May 17. It is anticipated that the board will vote on any amendments to the project during that meeting. Construction was originally planned to start on May 16, but the town attorney explained that there is no pressure for the town to issue a notice to proceed while the board is exploring these additional details.”
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A paved multi-use path will move forward after the town attorney advised Carrboro leaders Tuesday night that delaying or scrapping the project could cost the town $400,000 and future federal funds.
The Board of Aldermen took no action to delay the project, so it will move ahead as scheduled.
With more than a dozen speakers lining up to object to paving segment 1B of the Bolin Creek Greenway Creekside Trail, it was attorney Bob Hornick Jr.’s report that framed the argument for the board.
“The town has already spent $170,000 on the project this year in design and engineering costs,” he said. “NC DOT says that they have spent $120,000 so far. Fred Smith, the contractor, has spent somewhere between $75,000 and $100,000 so far.” Hornick said the town would likely have to reimburse the state and pay the contractor for expenses he has incurred.
The state Department of Transportation is the administrator of the federal funds allocated for the project. If there are changes to the project that would affect the easements or cause significant delays, the federal funds will be “disencumbered” said Hornick, forcing the town to re-apply and hurting its chances for winning grants.
Carrboro resident Patrick McDonough brought his endorsement for the paving to the board and urged members to consider the implications of delaying or changing the plan in any significant way. “There have been advisory boards that have worked on this plan for seven years,” he said. “They have attended meetings, lots of meetings. Look at the minutes. What signal does it send to have people come in at this point and block this?”
McDonough told the board Carrboro’s staff and citizen advisory boards would be devastated by such action. “Why should (Planning Director) Trish McGuire come to work?” he asked.
I don’t love this, but I like it a lot better than throwing away almost three quarters of a million dollars.
Alderwoman Jacquie Gist
Cross country coaches David Mabe and Joan Nesbit Mabe, many of their students and their parents have concerns about the multi-use paved path intersecting with the Chapel Hill High School’s training path. The new multi-use path will be available for walkers, cyclists, roller bladers and people in wheelchairs to roll and stroll along Bolin Creek from the Claremont neighborhood to Chapel Hill High School without walking or biking on or beside a busy roadway.
The pathway is funded through several federal grants and will provide an ADA-compliant surface on which wheelchairs can navigate safely. Accessibility to natural areas for people with disabilities was an important element of the project design according to town officials.
Just one intersection now
Where there had been three intersections with the cross country trail, causing concerns for the safety of runners and cyclists, McGuire reviewed a minor design change to the cross country trail that would eliminate two of the intersections and not compromise the DOT and federal grant requirements regarding the project remaining within the approved easements.
The aldermen agreed that the compromise, while not ideal, was a good path forward. “Delay would mean that we are abandoning the existing approved project,” said Alderman Damon Seils.
Alderwoman Jacquie Gist agreed. “I don’t love this, but I like it a lot better than throwing away almost three quarters of a million dollars,” she said.
Alderwoman Bethany Chaney urged the board to take their lessons from the communications disconnect between the town and the school district. She urged the board and staff to think about improving the processes that inform people affected by very large and long-planned projects. “We should look at who gets to sign off? Who gets to have a say?” said Chaney, who is also helping the town create its first youth advisory board.