Town officials are working on a plan to map out pedestrian improvements over the next several years and, early in the process, they want to public to weigh in on what it thinks the town’s priorities should be.
Town planner Allison Rice is leading the charge to create the town’s pedestrian plan. She doesn’t expect it to be as controversial as a recently proposed transportation plan was. But she says public involvement is equally important.
“We want to make that a focus. We’re trying to gather everyone’s input. We’re reaching out to senior citizens groups and low-income neighborhoods and we’re going to a lot of community events to let people know about the survey,” Rice said.
That survey is an online effort which takes about 5 minutes to complete. The questions ask about the respondent’s walking habits and it asks for feedback on where pedestrian improvements such as sidewalks, greenways and intersection crossings are most needed in town.
Rice has also cobbled together what she calls a stakeholder group that will help analyze the data once the survey period closes in June. She also hopes that group, which includes representatives from several town departments, the business community, school officials and healthcare representatives, DOT and Stantec, the consultant company hired to help piece the plan together.
The plan is important to Wendell because it helps position the town to apply for grants that could help pay for some of the projects in the plan. It also boosts the town’s chances of winning funding for projects from groups like the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, or CAMPO, a quasi-governmental agency made up of governments from all over Wake County which deals with transportation matters and doles out money for projects. Wendell currently doesn’t have any projects on CAMPO’s funding list, something Mayor Ginna Gray has said she hopes will change in coming years.
Gray, who serves on the stakeholder committee, says the plan is important for that very reason. “I’m hoping, as we’re planning and getting our ducks in a row, we can be ready when the opportunities come along,” Gray said.
Rice said the timing of work on the pedestrian plan is fortuituous because the delay in completing the transportation plan after residents complained about many aspects of that document, means the two plans can be completed more or less simultaneously, allowing them to work in concert. While the pedestrian plan deals with people moving around on foot, the transportation plan considers road and highway needs.
“It’s all part of the same system, so it’s important that it works well together,” Rice said.
‘A lot of irons in the fire’
What is unclear at this point, Rice said, is just what residents will say is most important to them. Greenway trails tend to have a different draw than sidewalks and crosswalks. But school and town officials have been worried for years about children having to cross Wendell Boulevard – the town’s busiest street – to get to school. And, Rice says, while Wendell has a very dense sidewalk network in downtown, but other parts of town lack sidewalks that allow residents to walk to downtown safely.
Greenways, Rice said, could be a great alternative for connecting Wendell Falls and Wendell proper, another interest of town leaders who worry about the creation of two Wendells.
Gray says she thinks residents won’t be too choosy about putting one project ahead of another. “I think they want everything. We’re trying to get a lot of irons in the fire and whichever opportunity comes along first, we want to be ready,” Gray said. “I don’t think anyone’s going to have a preference about what order it comes in as long as it comes about.”
The surveys being distributed by the town are one tool town leaders can use to build priorities into the plan. Rice said the stakeholder group will continue to meet and she plans a pair of public workshops – the first one will be in June – to give residents a chance to look over data the town has collected and provide still more advice.
Rice says she does not think it will be hard to gain public feedback as the plan is being created. She says the most difficult challenge will be in implementing the reccommendations included in the final plan. Still, she’s optimistic.
“I have a lot of hope that it will happen,” Rice said.
Have your say
▪ To take part in the town’s survey, visit townofwendell.com and click on the green box that says Pedestrian Plan.
▪ Attend one of the two public workshops town officials will hold. The first will be in June. The second will be in late October or early November.