The town is working with Wake County and surrounding towns to deliver on residents’ demand for greenways, which emerged as their top priority in a 2014 survey related to Apex’s pedestrian master plan.
Apex is now responsible for maintaining about 11 miles of greenways within the town limits, a figure Apex greenway planner Angela Reincke said she hopes to more than double by 2020.
Apex won’t have to tackle the task alone. The council approved a resolution Sept. 20 in support of a funding request to the state Department of Transportation, which could pay for the bulk of a desired comprehensive bike plan. The plan would cost between $40,000 and $70,000 to develop, according to the resolution.
The town last updated its bike proposals in 2011 as part of its comprehensive transportation plan. This would be the first time Apex has funded a study devoted solely to improving bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
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“It looks not just at infrastructure needs but what encouragement activities are needed, where we might have safety issues, where enforcement needs to be addressed,” said Shannon Cox, Apex’s senior transportation planner.
Additionally, Wake County awarded two greenway grants in April to help fund Apex greenway projects, offsetting $300,000 of the $800,000 those two projects are expected to cost. Wake County launched a $120,000 initiative late last year to come up with a comprehensive greenway plan.
The town’s Beaver Creek Greenway is to be extended west to connect with the American Tobacco Trail and pass through the Nature Park, which lies on either side of Apex Barbecue Road.
Similarly, the Middle Creek Greenway will be extended southward about four-fifths of a mile to link up with Holly Springs’ system of greenways. That’s related to a county-wide goal to not only increase greenway mileage within each town but to promote bicycle and pedestrian connectivity throughout the county.
Apex will also benefit from its collaboration with neighboring Cary on the White Oak Greeenway. That route will connect the northern part of Apex to the American Tobacco Trail, which is itself part of the larger East Coast Greenway, a developing greenway system that runs from Maine to Florida.
Apex’s greenways are chiefly used for recreation, Reincke said. But she and her department also see the potential for the system to be used by commuters and as a catalyst for economic development if routes can be made to pass by popular shopping centers, theaters or business parks.
“While recreation drives the effort now, we don’t hesitate to look for how we could expand the use,” Reincke said. “That’s a challenge Wake County wants us to discuss: How do we locate greenways so that they are more usable for business, commuter transportation?”
Much of Apex’s proposed bike infrastructure is in the form of multi-use paths, which look like extra-wide sidewalks. These paths follow existing roadways and are typically 10 feet wide to accommodate two-way bike and pedestrian traffic. Regular sidewalks are typically between 4 and 5 feet wide. The Apex Peakway, for instance, is proposed to have a multi-use path follow its entire length.
Reincke said she worries, though, that greenways are still viewed as a luxury in comparison to the political desire that exists to improve and expand roadways.
“Greenways are often the last piece considered when property is evaluated for development,” she said. “We tend to get the space next to a utility corridor or by a creek or a stream or another low, wet area.”
“People expect roads to be built,” Reincke added. “They’d like greenways to be built.”
Gargan: 919-460-2604; @hgargan