Mayor James Roberson says he supports the recommended $2.3 billion Wake County Transit Plan, but at least one town councilor is against it and another wants to see more in the plan for Knightdale before he commits.
“With the area growing the way it’s growing, it’s just more challenging to get around,” Roberson said. “You have folks that the nearest grocery store is three miles away. We need to make sure folks are able to get to the grocery store.”
Wake County Planning, Development and Inspections Director Tim Maloney made a presentation about the plan to the council March 16, emphasizing that it will help generate growth for the entire county.
Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson, who is chairman of the commissioners’ transit committee, said the county will eventually be asking the elected leaders of all 12 Wake municipalities included in the plan to back it before the November referendum on a 1/2-cent sales tax to pay for the improvements.
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“At some point that will be part of the process, but what we’re doing now is educating everyone on how it benefits everyone in Wake County,” Hutchinson said.
Knightdale Councilor Dustin Tripp said he is leaning against supporting the plan, which would cost an estimated $2.3 billion to build and run for the next 10 years.
“Right now I’m not much in favor of the plan as it currently is,” said Tripp, who called it “Raleigh-, Cary-heavy.”
Tripp said he had been to information sessions about the plan in the area but didn’t see his concerns reflected in what the county is proposing.
“We’ve been advocating for eastern Wake County,” he said. “I just don’t know if they’ve been listening.”
Reaching eastern Wake
Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Chalk said he was undecided, but in general felt the plan didn’t do enough for Knightdale and eastern Wake County.
“I would support it to a point,” Chalk said. “I think eastern Wake County’s just going to get some bus service out of it and not going to get what others are going to get out of it. ... We’re going to pay the same thing as the people in western Wake County and Durham, but they’re going to get all the benefits.”
The plan includes a commuter rail line that will run from Raleigh to Garner.
Chalk said he would like to see better bus service from eastern Wake County to Raleigh-Durham International Airport.
Tripp said one of his concerns with the plan is that it funds only half of a possible loop line that would circulate between Knightdale, Zebulon and Wendell, while looking to the towns for the other half.
Earning a say
Hutchinson said the 50-50 approach allows the plan to stretch funding for buses further, and that if the towns help fund a route they will gain a say in how it is designed.
“You put money in, you’ve earned the right to do that and no one can stop you,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson stressed that while rail has garnered much of the attention about the plan, two-thirds of the money raised would go toward buses, expanding 17 miles of bus service to 83.
The plan was developed with input from area mayors, he said, to ensure that all municipalities were heard from.
“I heard no alarm bells, but I’m cautious,” Councilor Mark Swan said after Maloney’s presentation.
“I believe that improving the county improves all the towns. If people get on the bus farther down the belt line, it still saves me trouble. I still get to work faster. So I still see benefits. ... I don’t need a choo-choo in town necessarily.”
Matt Goad: 919-829-4826