As the papers used to say, Hometown Boy Makes Good: Falconbridge’s own Nick Tennyson is Gov. Pat McCrory’s new DOT chief, the big wheel with a mandate to get keep the Old North State rolling.
So, since Nick is a neighbor respected and liked by all, I herewith submit a few, ahem, suggestions:
Congrats on your rise to the top at DOT. From Durham mayor to chief executive of a department that touches the lives of every North Carolinian is an impressive feat.
Now you also have an opportunity to touch the lives of your Falconbridge constituents. It’s a grand old North Carolina tradition for someone who has summited the peak to help the home folks dodging rocks below.
You and I are a bit young to remember the rise of Kerr Scott, the Alamance County farm boy who became governor in the late 1940s and is revered to this day as the man who got us out of the mud. He paved the roads.
Those were the days of brown paper bags passed quietly to the Branchhead Boys for political favors. Of course, we in southwest Durham are above such crudities, preferring instead to talk to you at patio parties and through social media, of which this column is but one.
Nick, you know we have big bubbles and lotsa troubles in the N.C. 54 corridor, and none more so than at the intersection of Farrington Road and I-40. This is the Gordian knot of intersections, and it’s growing more menacing by the day thanks to rapid commercial development.
No study has recommended a financially feasible hatchet for cutting the knot. Maybe relocating the interstate ramps at exit 273 will take some pressure off the intersection. It can’t hurt and might actually help.
There are so many entrances and exits between the intersection and the traffic light at Huntingridge Road that one wonders if anything short of magnetic levitation could solve the problem.
For sure, one idea advanced by planners is poison among your neighbors: a superstreet similar to the one on U.S. 15-501 at Erwin Road. One of these cognitive-dissonance designs is too many.
Still the Intersection from Hell is hardly the only bottleneck on N.C. 54. The wicked two-lane causeway that carries NC 54 across the New Hope Creek bottomland from I-40 to Woodcroft is an overloaded, dipsy-doodle relic of the 1930s..
The causeway should be replaced by a four-lane road, either through expansion of the existing roadbed or by a bridge spanning the bottomland. Yes, doing anything will bring out die-hard greens fearful that God’s creatures will be inconvenienced, but, hey, we’re the alpha males here, and our safety comes first.
Everybody in the N.C. 54 corridor knows that any square foot of developable land will have something built on it, almost certainly a commercial structure.
According to the 2011 corridor study, about 600 acres of developable land remain along the corridor. That land will make some people rich while making many drivers miserable.
Case in point: The two seven-story office buildings and associated parking deck planned off Farrington Road, near the intersection. The office towers will succeed Friendship Baptist Church, which is moving to a site on Farrington Road, adjacent to Falconbridge.
That section of Farrington has poor sight lines thanks to dips and curves. And now it must accommodate church traffic just below the southern entrance to Falconbridge, which as you know has the worst sight line from N.C. 54 to the intersection with Stagecoach Road.
Finally, let’s not forget the light-rail line from Alston Ave. in Durham to UNC Hospitals. If this misbegotten project becomes reality, there’ll be more trouble on Farrington Road and N.C. 54.
In fact, you will remember the proposed Leigh Village off Farrington, near a 20-acre maintenance yard for the rail system. Two for one. O joy!
Enough rambling for one day, Nick. Just wanted you to know that the home folks are proud of you and, yes, we’ll celebrate any relief (sorry, no brown paper bags) DOT can give us on N.C. 54. See ’ya at the pool.
Bob Wilson lives in southwest Durham.