Editorials

A vital moment for Raleigh transportation needs

From left, westbound I-540 traffic tries to merge into the already full lanes of traffic at the Six Forks Road westbound onramp during the morning rush hour in north Raleigh, Friday, August 19, 2016.
From left, westbound I-540 traffic tries to merge into the already full lanes of traffic at the Six Forks Road westbound onramp during the morning rush hour in north Raleigh, Friday, August 19, 2016. hlynch@newsobserver.com

The $206.7 million transportation bond Raleigh citizens are voting on come Oct. 10 isn’t just about sprucing up some roads or a little tweaking here and there or putting some touches on the Capital City’s roadways.

It’s about Raleigh’s future, pure and simple.

Will that future be envisioned by residents as one in which they live in a city that works, one that provides for efficient roadways moving large numbers of people through an increasingly populous – and popular – city, making it easier for them to get to work, and easier as well for them to get to other neighborhoods, perhaps one day with more mass transit options? Will they want a city that’s cleaner, appears less crowded but friendly to growth, accommodates citizens of all ages with all kinds of needs, from the “millennials” who love their bicycles to those commuters who want more sensible, less-crowded streets and all citizens, for that matter, who need safer transit options in all parts of the city?

Is Raleigh going to breathe? Or is it going to choke on inefficient growth and jumbled roadways and a lack of planning?

If that sounds like a dramatic contrast, it is, but the questions aren’t far-fetched.

This vote is a chance for Raleigh residents to be practical – roads are getting more crowded and older ones need repair and upgrading, particularly those in the outer reaches of the city limits – and to dare to dream a little.

In the first instance, let’s take just one example. Old Wake Forest Road North would be widened to four lanes with a median dividing them, with bike lanes, sidewalks and streetlights from Atlantic Avenue to Capital Boulevard. (Information from the city of Raleigh.) Just think of the positive impact of something like this, when completed. Other similar projects would be addressed with these bonds.

And consider what else would be done with some of the money. More sidewalks, more “streetscape” work citywide, with lighting and furniture, more help for bicyclists, and a greater investment in the city’s “traffic calming” program. There’s an example of something badly needed, for all residents who’ve seen reckless speeders drifting in and out of lanes or cutting through residential neighborhoods to avoid traffic while creating new hazards with their speed.

Some of the money also would go toward projects in which the city needs to invest matching funds for the state Department of Transportation for long-term needs.

And here’s something important, very important: These projects do not favor Raleigh “Inside the Beltline” or “North Raleigh,” but all of Raleigh. There is no part of the city that is not positively affected by what these bonds could do.

The Raleigh Chamber is launching a campaign, Raleigh for Roads, on Sept. 6, and will spotlight some of the projects. Most citizens can attest to needs, which should build support for this vital, absolutely necessary investment in the city’s future.

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