DURHAM The N.C. Department of Transportation has agreed to improve a dangerous Durham intersection if the county maintains the sidewalk there. But some county commissioners are wary of the precedent it might set.
Currently, the county does not maintain or construct any sidewalks, but the DOT has said it would put a stoplight at the intersection of Erwin and Randolph roads and a sidewalk along Erwin from Randolph to Forest View Elementary if the county agrees to maintain the new sidewalk.
Several parents of Forest View Elementary children who live in the Solterra neighborhood across Erwin Road spoke to the Board of County Commissioners on Monday to express their fear of letting their children walk to school or cross Erwin to play at the school’s playground.
Board Chairman Michael Page said if the county agrees to the deal it needs to be prepared to help the next group of parents that brings the board a similar request.
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“Are we prepared to do for all neighborhoods what we are prepared to do for one?” Page asked.
County Manager Wendell Davis said that as the county grows more urban, sidewalks in unincorporated areas of the county would become a more ressing issue.
Commissioner Fred Foster said he was not ready to commit to the expense such a move could entail.
Assistant County Manager Drew Cummings on Monday presented a set of criteria the county could adopt for taking on additional sidewalk maintenance, should the need arise. Under his proposal, the county would take on maintenance only if the sidewalk is within a quarter-mile of a Durham Public Schools school, if there is a lot of pedestrian activity in the area, and if no other entity can reasonably take on the maintenance.
Cummings stressed that the county does not plan to get into any construction of sidewalks.
Of the seven DPS schools in the unincorporated area of the county, Cummings identified four – Oak Grove and Creekside elementary schools, Neal Middle and The School for Creative Studies (formerly Chewning Middle) – where these criteria might be met in the future.
Cummings also identified six DPS schools in the Durham city limits but close enough to the line that they also might meet the criteria in the future.
The funds for the Erwin Road traffic light and sidewalk must be spent by June 30, Cummings said, so the DOT is asking the county to make a decision by the end of April.
Hard left turn
Commissioner Ellen Reckhow supported moving ahead with the deal the DOT is offering, telling the commissioners they should go out to Randolph Road and make a left turn onto Erwin Road to see how difficult it is.
But Page wanted to delay the decision, saying he didn’t think it would pass if the board voted Monday.
Page asked Cummings if he could ask the DOT for an extension till the end of May for the county’e decision. Cummings said after calling the department that because of the June deadline to spend the funds, the April 30 deadline remains a necessity.
The commissioners will take the matter up again at their Monday, April 13, meeting.
The Durham County Board of Commissioners holds work sessions on the first Monday of each month beginning at 9 a.m. and regular sessions on the second and fourth Mondays of each month beginning at 7 p.m. The meetings are held at the Durham County Government Administrative Complex, 2nd floor, Commissioners’ Meeting Room, 200 E. Main St. downtown. If you want to speak to the board you must sign up to speak before the start of the meeting but not before 6:30 p.m.