Chapel Hill News

Homestead Road neighbors ask town to connect sidewalks

Siena Palmisciano, from left, and Kitty Davenport join family and neighbors for a Homestead Road sidewalks rally at the Seymour Senior Center in Chapel Hill, NC, on Oct. 24, 2015. The neighbors want the town to use some of its $2 million in bond money to build more sidewalks.
Siena Palmisciano, from left, and Kitty Davenport join family and neighbors for a Homestead Road sidewalks rally at the Seymour Senior Center in Chapel Hill, NC, on Oct. 24, 2015. The neighbors want the town to use some of its $2 million in bond money to build more sidewalks. Contributed

Neighbors say their worst nightmare was realized last month when an elderly woman was fatally struck while crossing Homestead Road.

Police are still looking for a dark brown sedan that may have hit Guo Qi Zheng, 79, of Old Larkspur Way, just after 1 p.m. Oct. 15, spokeman Lt. Josh Mecimore said. She was returning home after getting a flu shot at the Seymour Senior Center.

Zheng crossed Homestead Road about 250 feet east of the pedestrian crosswalk at Weaver Dairy Road Extension, he said.

She had few options, Homestead Village neighbor Jaleh Hagigh said. The roughly 500 feet from the Seymour Center sidewalk to the intersection has deep ditches and narrow shoulders. The same short stretches of sidewalk broken by difficult terrain line the length of Homestead Road.

The problem has grown with the population, she and others said. They took their concerns to the Town Council in May and rallied Oct. 24 at the Seymour Center to encourage support for a town bond that included $2 million for new sidewalks.

The rally was planned before Zheng’s death, said Lee Ann Swanekamp, president of the Homestead Village homeowners association. But it was on their minds as the group walked down Homestead Road carrying signs, while the adults shielded the children from traffic, she said.

They held a moment of silence where Zheng was hit, Swanekamp said.

Safety is not the only concern, she said. Intermittent sidewalks are leaving less-able neighbors isolated from an increasing number of nearby social and community services, including Homestead Community Park and the aquatic center.

“There’s no real shoulder. There’s no place to go,” Swanekamp said. “And the more they build, the busier it gets, the faster the cars go, the less tolerant they are of pedestrians, the more traffic there is. I just feel like it needs to happen soon, because we have critical mass.”

The town is aware of the concerns, said David Bonk, long range and transportation planning manager, and has identified Homestead Road as an area that needs sidewalks. Construction runs $40 to $80 per linear foot, he said, depending on the topography and the need for curbs and gutters.

Some new sidewalks will be added with planned developments, he said, including Bridgepoint, Courtyards at Homestead, Merin Road and county’s Southern Human Services Center expansion. Town staff will ask residents and town advisory boards to identify sidewalk bond projects.

“Once we have received the input, we will prioritize the projects based on a ranking criteria and return to the council for approval of the proposed project list,” Bonk said. “I expect this process to begin sometime early in the new year.”

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

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