Guest post from the Wade CAC by Barry Eriksen
At the June 26 Wade Citizens Advisory Council (CAC) meeting, there was a brief discussion of the gating of Dan Allen Drive, scheduled to begin August 15, 2012. A motion was passed authorizing a small group to meet with North Carolina State University (NCSU) officials to gather more information and express concerns about traffic impacts on neighborhood residents. Bill Padgett volunteered to facilitate the meeting given his past involvements and acquaintance with relevant NCSU officials and John Lambert, Mary Jane Clark, and Barry Eriksen expressed interest in attending to represent our neighborhoods.
A meeting was held on July 6, 2012 at NCSU’s Transportation Department with David Rainer, Associate Vice Chancellor Environmental Health and Public Safety, Tom Kendig, Director of Transportation, John Lambert, Barry Eriksen, and Bill Padgett. (Mary Jane Clark was unable to attend due to unexpected schedule conflict.)
The primary focus of the meeting was to gain an understanding of NCSU’s plans for the closure via the gating of Dan Allen Drive scheduled for later this summer and discuss concerns regarding the resulting diversion of traffic onto other streets. We had a cordial and open discussion about shared perceptions of and interests in increasing traffic volumes from new development projects close to campus since the university depends on neighborhood public streets to carry much of its affiliate traffic between Main and Centennial Campuses
Here are more specifics on gating of Dan Allen Drive:
NCSU is completing work on a traffic study begun earlier this year (expected to be published on its website later this summer). The university continues established plans to minimize traffic on campus, switching to buses, walking and biking rather than personal vehicles. Safety is also a continuing issue, especially where heavy automobile and pedestrian traffic mix, particularly Dan Allen Drive with resident students crossing Dan Allen to various campus destinations/class, similarly joined by students living immediately adjacent to campus in University Towers and the new Valentine Commons apartments.
Bus services must become more reliable to reduce vehicular traffic, with a goal of at least a 90% on-time rate for buses; however the actual rate is closer to 70% and trending downward. Currently 14,000 passengers/day use the campus bus system. The buses commonly suffer delays with routes on Dan Allen due to traffic/pedestrian congestion and routes crossing the Gorman/Western Blvd. intersection with high levels of traffic and lengthy light cycles. In addition, Pullen Drive’s “newish” roundabout is too small for standard-size buses. With the new Valentine Commons apartments (900 units and 400-car parking deck) opening for the Fall 2012 semester, a likely significant increase in both pedestrian and vehicular traffic on Dan Allen Drive will only cause more delays in bus routes. Recent traffic study reports 11,000 vehicle trips/weekday on Dan Allen, 20% of which is non-university traffic.
Therefore the gating of Dan Allen Drive during business hours at the railroad bridge before resumption of classes on August 15, 2012, is seen as a necessary though unpopular fix to provide more reliable bus service and also expected to improve pedestrian safety.
Gates will be down (for use by service vehicles and those who hold relevant campus permits) only when classes are in session, M-F from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Presumably, this will allow some of the morning/afternoon “rush-hour” traffic to continue using Dan Allen. The gates will be open other hours and on weekends and holidays.
As the gating is implemented, traffic patterns will be monitored and the effectiveness of the arrangements will be reviewed over the first year. NCSU has worked with the City of Raleigh, sharing traffic data and plans.
Additional strategies to reduce/improve intra-/inter-campus traffic:
A new 250 space parking lot at the Farmer’s Market (no permit needed) where NCSU folks can park & catch the bus (similar lots are currently are in place at the NC Fairgrounds and near the McKimmon Center).
Resident student parking permits have recently been limited to allow parking only near assigned residence hall to discourage students from driving across campus to attend class or visit, with the expectation that buses/walking/biking will be used instead. (Note: how off-campus/non-resident students parking permits are handled was not addressed — needs clarification.)
There have been discussions between NCSU, the Raleigh Catholic Diocese, the City and the Kirby-Bilyeu neighborhood about possible extension of Pullen Drive past Western Blvd. to Centennial Campus in concert with a building project by the Diocese. This would traverse land owned by the Diocese and a smaller portion owned by NCSU. This possibility would be 2-3 years out at earliest.
NCSU is building its first dormitory on Centennial Campus with a 1200 student capacity residence hall.
Notes by Wade CAC representatives
Current light-rail transit if/when funding is available have transit stops planned at Pullen, Dan Allen, Gorman and the College of Veterinarian Medicine.
Neighborhood residents have few routes to cross campus to get to the Farmers Market and shopping areas off Western Boulevard/Avent Ferry and will have to travel around Main campus, which is a de facto mile-long no-travel zone.
We all acknowledged that the Gorman/Western and the Pullen Drive/Western intersections were already problematic at certain times of the day, often experiencing long backups; therefore optimization of traffic patterns and signaling at Pullen/Western and Gorman/Western should be encouraged and supported both by the neighborhoods and the university.
We asked about any possibilities for more traffic moving onto/off campus directly through the Avent Ferry/Western Blvd intersection (at Morrill Drive) to take some pressure off Pullen (e.g., access to parking decks).
With some Dan Allen traffic shifting to Pullen and Gorman to transit Main Campus, together with additional traffic from several new development projects nearby (Oberlin/Clark projects—Oberlin 401 and Cameron Village Crescent, Valentine Commons, the future hotel at Pullen/Hillsborough roundabout, Hillsborough 2604, 925 W. Morgan projects), there is strong potential to change traffic levels and traffic patterns for Hillsborough Street, Clark Avenue (including residential sections) and north-south routes between Hillsborough Street and Western Blvd. These streets should be monitored for changes/problems.
Noted that Pullen Drive cannot be widened on the Pullen Park side due to restrictive covenants which would call for the revocation of Pullen Park back to Pullen heirs if widened.
NCSU officials are open to establishing regular meetings with neighborhood representatives.
Suggestion for the Wade CAC
It would be helpful if NCSU officials were invited to provide updates on the Dan Allen gating/traffic projects and transportation/parking issues of mutual interest (perhaps a Q&A on their traffic study?). Perhaps even a regular NCSU representative could attend the Wade CAC meetings if there were enough relevant matters (Bill Padgett advises that Tom Younce, Head of NCSU Public Safety, regularly attended Wade CAC meetings before his recent retirement).
We especially appreciated the opportunity for cordial and open discussions with David Rainer and Tom Kendig, who generously offered their time and shared their thoughts and knowledge of university objectives while listening to our concerns and perspectives. Hopefully this will be a starting point for further discussions both with NCSU and the City of Raleigh.
Thanks also to Bill Padgett for facilitating our meeting with the right officials at NCSU, and to fellow residents John Lambert and Mary Jane Clark for doing their homework by taking time to re-acquaint themselves with the routes around and through NCSU campus in preparation for our meeting.
If you’d like to get involved, have additional questions, or need additional information, please contact the Wade CAC.