The mayors of Holly Springs and Cary will soon have more prominent roles on a board that reviews local transportation projects.
On Jan. 21, Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears was elected chairman of the executive board for the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, a transportation agency for Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Franklin and Granville counties. Sears served as vice chairman under the previous chairman, Garner Mayor Ronnie Williams.
Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht was elected vice chairman of the board after being nominated by Fuquay-Varina Mayor John Byrne, he said.
Each mayor is expected to serve a two-year term in his new position on the board. They’ll take the lead in running monthly meetings, reviewing CAMPO staff reports on proposed projects and leading discussions.
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As CAMPO board leaders, Sears and Weinbrecht will have less power than they do in their elected positions. But the positions will give the duo a higher platform from which to lobby for their towns when needed.
Sears and Weinbrecht are well-suited for the positions because they’re from rapidly growing towns that have transportation issues, said Knightdale Mayor Russell Killen.
“Both of those guys are well-respected and run a good meeting,” Killen said. “I’m sure they’ll do a great job.”
Weinbrecht said his appointment shows that local leaders think Cary officials can relate to issues facing both small towns and big cities such as Raleigh.
“We’re a metropolitan area and a town, so it says a lot about how we work with all the municipalities and how they view us as a valuable partner,” Weinbrecht said. “It means a lot to me that we’re thought of that well.”
Sears and Weinbrecht have been active transportation advocates as their towns upgrade local road networks to keep up with rapid residential growth.
For Cary, the biggest transportation issues are focused in the western part of town. Developers are gobbling up the town’s last swaths of undeveloped land, and local roads are often clogged because there are no major east-to-west routes in the area that connects N.C. 54, N.C. 55 and N.C. 540.
Weinbrecht and the Cary Town Council struck a deal with the state Department of Transportation last summer to expedite the construction of an interchange between Morrisville Parkway and Interstate 540 by 2017, rather than 2018 or later.
Meanwhile, Holly Springs has been trying to reduce the number of traffic jams on Avent Ferry Road and the N.C. 55 Bypass caused by residential growth on the south side of town.
The town plans to realign the Avent Ferry-N.C. 55 Bypass intersection in the next two years, and Sears was instrumental in acquiring $1 million of the $1.6 million project from state legislators and DOT.
Williams, the Garner mayor, said his town benefitted when he served as CAMPO chair and he expects Holly Springs will benefit from Sears’ new position.
“One of the advantages of being chair was helping steer $2.3 million toward (U.S.) Highway 70 through Garner,” Williams said.
The position also gave Williams a public platform to criticize certain Interstate 540 extension studies.
The state Department of Transporation is studying 17 different combinations of pathways to link Apex to Knightdale through southern Wake County. As chairman, Williams openly opposed the Red Route, which would cut through about a dozen neighborhoods and an industrial park.
Sears said he plans to use the new role to discourage the Purple Route, which would cut through the Sunset Oaks subdivision in Holly Springs.
“Hopefully, (being chair) will help elevate our belief that the Orange Route is the best route,” Sears said.
The Orange Route runs parallel to Ten-Ten Road north of Holly Springs. The Purple Route branches south off the Orange Route down Pierce-Olive Road and connects to the Blue Route at U.S. 401 after crossing Hilltop Needmore and Johnson Pond roads.
Sears also plans to lobby to create a public bus route between Holly Springs and Raleigh. Holly Springs is one of the few towns in Wake County that doesn’t have the service.
“It’s no one’s fault, really,” Sears said of the lack of bus service. “We didn’t have a need for it until we got to about 30,000 people.”