DCCA Board of Directors letter regarding the proposed changes to the Light Rail Corridor

The Downing Creek Board of Directors recently became aware of a proposal to change the light rail corridor from a Meadowmont Station to one on our side of the road with the rail line running at ground level across both Barbee Chapel Road and Downing Creek Parkway. I'm getting a map of this printed for our Annual Meeting on Wednesday night (7pm at Creekside Elementary). Because the first and possibly the most significant vote on this change is at the Chapel Hill Town Council meeting tonight at 7pm, the Board of Directors sent a letter to the Town Council on behalf of the neighborhood. You can also direct comments to the Triangle Transit Authority that made the plan and the Durham City Council and the Durham County Comissioners who will be voting on it this summer. Please visit http://www.ourtransitfuture.com for more information.

Downing Creek Community Association
c/o Rebecca Board · 10 Winslow Pl · Chapel Hill, NC 27517 · (919) 968-1303

May 12, 2011

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Chapel Hill Town Council Members:

The Downing Creek Board of Directors has serious concerns about the proposed alternative route for the future light rail corridor along Hwy 54 and the detrimental effects it would have on the residents and owners in Downing Creek. We ask you to vote against the alternative 'C2' route, leaving the route and transit station on the original path through Meadowmont.

Downing Creek is a well established community representing approximately 900 residents, including 235 single family homes and 175 condominiums. Downing Creek, and the Little John community next to us, are deeply affected by the proposed route change have been here since before transit oriented development became one of our local planning goals. While we and our residents are generally supportive of new public transit options, we do not feel that our community should bear the negative aspects of a light rail line instead of the Meadowmont community that was purposely built with the density to support it.

The thought of running a ground level track across Barbee Chapel Road at its busiest intersection and across the front entrances to our neighborhoods seems ludicrous to those of us on this side of Highway 54. We have enough trouble navigating through the Barbee Chapel Road intersection, exiting from Downing Creek onto Hwy 54, and crossing Hwy 54 to enter Downing Creek during peak travel times – and that’s without adding a train crossing our path at the point of congestion every few minutes during the peak time.

We also have safety concerns. We are a community with many children, and we have been working with Capitol Associates to improve our bike and pedestrian access to Meadowmont along the same path now being proposed for a train. How will we ensure the safety of children walking and riding so near to this length of train track? Pedestrian and Bicycle traffic for local travel is as important to our future as mass transit for longer distances, and is deserving of more attention before this change is considered.

We see that a potential small Park and Ride is being used as a possible justification for the proposed new station location. But if you have been following the progress of the Highway 54 Corridor Study, you will realize that this location (indeed any location along Hwy 54 west of I40) will be of no great use in the future plans for Highway 54. To reduce congestion on Hwy 54, we need Park and Ride locations that intercept commuters before their cars contribute to traffic congestion on Hwy 54.

While we are skeptical of the environmental superiority this change, we also feel that even if the new route is environmentally superior, other options with fewer traffic and residential impacts than this one could be opened for discussion and consideration. Just because an aerial map appears to show a green strip ready and available for a train, does not mean that the situation isn't far more complicated on the ground. Furthermore, a route on the south side of Hwy 54 effectively leaves the rail system inaccessible to Meadowmont and future UNC development on the Lloyd tract, since all the stops will be on the opposite side of a road that is simply unsafe for pedestrians to cross. There may even be alternatives to either the Meadowmont or Woodmont station with a little more brainstorming and public input.

Finally, the residents of Downing Creek have never been properly notified of this proposed change, having assumed for years now that since Meadowmont was developed as a future transit hub then the hub would be located there where it made the most sense. The long term transportation plan has always backed up this assumption in showing the future light rail corridor doing just that. While we have tried to spread the word through Downing Creek ourselves, there has been insufficient time to do a proper job of explaining the proposed change. We feel that we are the victims of a classic Bait-and-Switch scam and our input deserves far more consideration than we have been shown.

In summary, we have serious concerns about the proposed route change and ask for a vote against the alternative route.

Kind regards,
The Downing Creek Board of Directors

Cathy Ladd, President
Rebecca Board
Brian Burke
Page Skelton
Susan Sonberg