DCCA Board Letter March 2015 to Durham City-County Planning Department

March 31, 2015

Hannah Jacobson
Durham City-County Planning Department
101 City Hall Plaza
Durham, NC 27701

Dear Planners:

We, the Directors for the Downing Creek Community Association, submit this letter and supporting Memorandum of Concern in opposition of the proposed C-2 light rail alignment and how it relates to the NC 54/I-40 Corridor Master Plan. On February 8, 2012, the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro MPO stated its preference for the proposed C-2 alignment when approving the Locally Preferred Alternative for the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Corridor. This letter is to voice our strong opposition to this proposal – as more fully detailed in our attached memorandum. The following is a summary of our concerns with regard to the present configuration of C-2:

1.) The C-2 proposal shows a grade (ground) level rail crossing over Barbie Chapel Road and the Downing Creek subdivision’s entrance. This will restrict the flow of traffic Including emergency vehicles passing between Barbie Chapel Rd. and NC 54, contrary to the goals of the NC 54/I-40 Corridor Study Master Plan. The C-2 alignment will both compromise and detrimentally restrict Downing Creek’s only ingress/egress access to NC 54.

2.) The C-2 proposal runs contrary to the “super street” (overpass) plan for the interchange at Barbie Chapel Road and NC 54. If the tracks are laid at grade level, the intersection may need to be retro-actively reconfigured for additional cost, or it may prevent the development of the overpass all together.

3.) Placing the light rail station south of NC 54 will fail to properly service the higher concentration residential, commercial and governmental services lying north of NC 54. The inconvenience of accessing a southerly light rail station will result in reduced ridership by Meadowmont residents (who are more numerous and highly concentrated), reduced ridership by commercial shoppers wishing to reach the Meadowmont Commercial District and failure to reduce congestion on NC 54 – since Meadowmont residents and outlying consumers will continue to use NC 54 for their transportation needs.

4.) Since the area north of NC 54 contains a higher population density and the Meadowmont Commercial District, this will significantly increase pedestrian traffic crossing NC 54 to reach a light rail station to the south. This increased pedestrian traffic will increase the risk of severe bodily injury (or death) to pedestrians and riders being forced to cross NC 54. Further, the increased risk of harm will discourage use of the light rail system and, therefore, will fail to reduce dependence on NC 54.

5.) The proposed station south of NC 54 is being pushed by the City of Chapel Hill and Orange County, but will be located in the City of Chapel Hill/Durham County. Chapel Hill/Orange County should have no right to dictate such a significant change to Durham County, it citizens and possibly its tax base.

6.) There is a great concern among our homeowners in regards to parking if the station south of NC 54 is built. Our homeowners are concerned that riders may park on our bike trails and in the parking lots of condominiums located near our main entrance at NC 54.

7.) The Meadowmont Subdivision is the population, social and commercial center of the NC 54/I-40 Corridor. It is unlikely that this will change even if the area South of NC 54 is developed. A failure to properly service Meadowmont, for the benefit of all, will severely undermine and may even negate the usefulness of the nascent public transportation system and NC 54/I-40 Corridor Plan.

8.) We have received notification of informational sessions by Durham City County Planning Department to discuss the concept of compact neighborhoods in regards to the light rail project. It is in our opinion that Meadowmont meets all of the criteria of a compact neighborhood. If the push is for the rail go through compact neighborhoods, then it makes sense that it should take the C1A route using the parking and requirements that are already in place. Does Orange County have the same plan?

9.) The C-2 proposal could increase the potential liabilities to approving and operating bodies since C-2 would increase the risk of injury to light rail riders (by increasing foot traffic across NC 54) when C-1A would seem to be a safer alternative.

10.) The C-2 proposal could lead to future unknown government expenditures in order to retrofit the Barbie Chapel Rd. and NC 54 interchange. Possible expenditures to include pedestrian bridges over NC 54, retroactively having to reconfigure the roads to accommodate the planned super-street overpass and failure to reduce congestion on NC 54 (implying a need for other future projects).

11.) That all environmental studies comparing C-1A and C-2 must be properly weighed against the increased threat to public safety and future capital expenditures needed to rectify the shortcomings of pursuing the C-2 proposal.

12.) That all environmental studies should seek to find alternative routes which will accommodate all public safety and expenditure concerns, as well as environmental concerns.

13.) That decision makers should select the proposal which best weighs the interests of all stakeholders involved and act in the best interest of all citizens of Durham and Orange Counties to achieve the goals of the NC 54/I-40 Corridor Master Plan; namely, encourage the use and access of public transportation, reduce congestion on NC 54 and create an efficient and functional public transportation system.

We strongly encourage you to take these concerns in consideration. Though we have an interest in protecting our neighborhood, we also, as residents of the local area, have an interest to ensure that we have a well-designed and functional public transportation system.

Downing Creek Community Association
Board of Directors,

Ted Bohlin, President
Susan Sonberg, Secretary
Brian Burke, Treasurer

Eric Butler, Director
Toby Barfield, Director