By Gregory DL Morris
CHAPEL HILL —Work on a lengthy greenway study largely funded by a federal grant is expected to begin next year.
Late in June the Town of Chapel Hill was awarded a $1-million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation that will mostly fund a detailed study of the town’s proposed 25-mile Everywhere To Everywhere (E2E) greenway plan. The study would include public outreach, preliminary designs and cost estimates to build out the network. The process could be complete in two years.
The town’s goal is to incorporate existing greenways into the system, including the greenway under construction as part of the rebuilding of Estes Drive, which is expected to be complete this winter according to the latest project update posted by the town. The town expects to create connections to Carrboro and other neighboring communities where practical. The goal is to place greenway access within a quarter-mile of 57% of the town’s residents, improve access to the town’s existing transit system and a planned rapid transit route.
TLR followed up with the town after the announcement to get more details on the timeline and study process.
The study’s price tag comes in at $1.3 million, with the town required to provide some matching funds to secure the grant. Chapel Hill Transportation Planning Manager Bergen Watterson told TLR the town expects to execute a contract with the DOT in September.
The intention is for the town to hire an engineering firm to conduct the work, but that will be decided by council. If the council does look to outside companies, the town would issue a request for qualifications and proposals to select a firm. The study would include alignment and design for the proposed new greenways incorporating environmental equity and safety, as well as estimates for construction costs.
The study will help determine the process to complete the network and could help the town find more grant funding to make it a reality.
“We are very lucky to have this grant and be able to conduct the study for the whole E2E system all together,” Watterson said. “Once the study is completed, we may be able to apply for another grant under the same program to help fund construction. Even if we have to build the greenways one at a time, at least they will be part of a coherent system.”
She added that community engagement will be an essential part of the work so that the planners can address possible concerns early and avoid opposition later in the process.
The town’s transportation prospects have only improved since the two weeks since the study funding was announced as it has continued to rake in grants. Last week it was awarded $2.16 million from the Federal Transit Association. The grant will allow the town to improve safety and amenities at its bus stops.
The town’s transit department was also awarded $1.06 million from the North Carolina Department of Transportation to match federal money that helps municipalities purchase electric buses.
Correction: A previous headline stated the study would run for two years. The study could be complete in two years. TLR regrets the error.