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Cary, NC — This week was a busy week with the highlight being the opening of The Cary theater.
Monday I met briefly with the town manager, deputy town manager, and assistant to the town manager. We only had a couple of items to review, one related to an ongoing issue related to an ordinance.
Monday night I met with the mayors of Wake County. Those in attendance included the mayors of Cary, Garner, Holly Springs, Knightdale, Raleigh, Rolesville, and Wendell. One topic discussed was Duke Energy’s policy of tree trimming and tree removal around power lines. It was expressed that Duke Energy’s pruning is much more severe so that they don’t have to prune so often. As a result, trees are damaged to a point where they remain unsightly. Trees listed for removal include Bradford Pears, Leyland Cypress, Red and Silver Maples, Locust, and Poplar trees. The mayors unanimously decided to write a resolution opposing this practice. The mayors also decided to write a resolution opposing the Wake County Commissioners desire to use bond money designated for parks for unincorporated areas only. It was pointed out by several mayors that the majority of taxes collected by the county are from municipalities. Our meeting lasted about two hours.
Tuesday Cary was honored by having one of its congressional members tour the town. Representative Holding toured several places including SAS Institute. He was very impressed with the town and talked about how it had changed since he was a child. He mentioned that his family used to own what is now Regency Park and he had played on that land as a child. It was a good visit and he committed to helping Cary in any way he could.
Later Tuesday I met with a couple interested in starting new initiatives to help youth within Cary. They plan to meet with the town staff to go over existing programs before presenting a proposal of ideas. Our meeting lasted about half an hour.
Wednesday I attended the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organizational meeting in Raleigh. There were several items of interest for Cary. Funding for the Green Level West Road widening from NC 540 to NC 55 was approved. In addition, Morrisville Parkway Extension from Highcroft Drive to Mills Park Drive was awarded $3 million for construction, the Lake Pine Drive improvements project was awarded $668,000 for construction, and the White Oak Greenway from Green Level Church Road to the American Tobacco Trail was awarded $2.7 million for construction. In other action the organization approved a submittal list to NCDOT that included from Cary: 2 roadway projects, 2 pedestrian/bike projects, 1 transit project, and two grade separated rail projects. The organization also approved Chris Lukasina to replace Ed Johnson as the new CAMPO director. CAMPO staff presented items to be considered in the next fiscal year that included a corridor safety and mobility study that contains the rail crossing at Maynard Road. Our meeting lasted about an hour.
Wednesday a public announcement was made about Google’s interest in bringing fiber to Cary. This resulted in council email boxes being filled with people wanting us to bring Google to Cary. Some went so far as to say they would not vote for me in the future if Google didn’t come to Cary. Wow! I wish it were my decision. If so, Google would have already been here.
On Thursday the frequency of the Google emails increased. In addition, it appeared that there was a lot of misinformation about Cary’s involvement. After conferring with management and public information we decided it was best for me to release an open letter to the public about the matter. Here is that letter:
Google recently announced that Cary is one of several Triangle towns and cities being considered for future installation of its fiber optic network. This announcement generated a tremendous response from our citizens, including the demand that we actively pursue this opportunity and questions about the effect it will have on our participation in the region’s North Carolina Next Generation Network project.
First, let me say that the Cary Town Council and Town staff are all very excited about Google’s announcement and we’re doing all we can to bring fiber to Cary. In 2010, Cary joined more than 1,000 communities across the country in applying to be among the first to test Google’s new service; although that honor went to Kansas City, we are fortunate to be considered now as the company adds 34 new locations to its expansion plan. Citizens can trust that we will fully participate in Google’s selection process and provide them with the information they need in a timely manner. This evaluation is extensive and will include analyzing everything from Cary’s topography to our permitting process; Google is hoping to choose which locations will receive fiber by the end of the year. Town staff is prepared to meet the challenge and make it easy for Google to choose Cary.
I also want to make it clear that the Town is still committed to the NC Next Generation Network initiative, referred to in the past as GIG U. In fact, Google’s announcement is in line with the work we’ve been doing as a member of the NCNGN project to address our community’s need for faster Internet speeds at competitive prices. This regional effort, which includes five other Triangle municipalities and three universities, will continue to encourage companies to provide next generation broadband service at gigabit Internet speeds, which are 100 times faster than today’s basic speeds. Currently, the NCNGN steering committee is reviewing proposals for a regional network that would provide this ultra-fast service.
Here in Cary, we value innovation and we’re committed to bringing the best services and economic development opportunities to our community. Citizens can count on their Town Council and Town staff to make decisions that keep Cary one of the best places in the nation to live, work, and raise a family.
At the time of writing this post I am still receiving dozens of emails a day about Google.
Friday night was the dedication of The Cary theater. The opening of this venue was big event for Cary. The evening started with the town crier (all the way from Markham, Canada). This was followed by a short film clip provided by the North Carolina Film Office. Afterwards I made remarks in which I talked about downtown revitalization, the programming of the theater, and the appreciation for the staff, consultants, and artists that worked on the project. Before leaving the stage I was joined by council members and special guest Randy Chandler, son of the original owner, as we made handprints to be sealed in concrete leading to the theater. Live entertainment followed in the theater and on the third floor of the new adjoining building.
Saturday morning was the ribbon cutting of The Cary. There was a good crowd including media from ABC11 and NBC17. I estimated the crowd to be well over 100 people. The Chandler family, whose father Paul Chandler opened this theater in 1946, was also in attendance. Joining me to cut the ribbon were all of the council and council member Robinson’s daughter. Instead of a countdown we used “lights, camera, action…”. Once the ribbon was cut the public entered and the programming began. It was a lot of fun and there theater was still full when I left a couple of hours later.
Bridge Over Chatham St.
Emails from staff this week included a response about why we were studying the possibility of a bridge over the rail tracks. Here is an excerpt from that email:
The impetus for the study is the continued work and planning by other entities that project increased rail activity in the corridor – including freight, Amtrak, high?speed, commuter, and light rail traffic. Based on current projections for freight & Amtrak, rail traffic through downtown Cary will double to 32 trains daily by 2030. With the additions of high-speed, commuter, and light rail that estimates rises to 250+ trains daily through downtown. The purpose of the feasibility study is to:
- help the Town understand the impacts of the increased rail traffic,
- decide if a grade separation on Harrison Avenue is feasible and,
- if so, when and which options are viable alternatives.
There is no funding at this time for construction of improvements at the local, state, or federal level. We are looking at the options, their viability, and projected costs to decide if and how to move forward.
I think it is important to reiterate that there is no funding and we continue to look at options.
Staff also sent out a response to criticism that improvements to the Kildaire Farm and Cary Parkway intersection will be a detriment to pedestrian safety. The town’s response is very detailed and includes the following:
Cary Parkway and Kildaire Farm Road is one of five intersections listed in the bond referendum for improvements, which rates among the top intersections in Cary with the highest traffic volumes. The Town continues to use engineering techniques to maximize capacity and improve safety of the existing intersections with methods such as coordination of signal timing along the corridor, monitoring the intersection signal timing from the traffic camera and making real-time adjustments, and the use of flashing left yellow arrows. However, without making physical improvements to the infrastructure, the intersections will continue to become more congested over time since the signal timing adjustments can no longer provide realized benefits. To keep pace with our infrastructure needs, the town is proposing these minor improvements to reduce congestion, increase capacity, and increase safety. …
The Town makes a strong effort to ensure that adequate accommodations are provided within the project designs for all modes of transportation, including pedestrians. Cary has been honored as both a Walk Friendly and Bike Friendly Community and it is the Town’s commitment to always improve designs to help achieve this distinction. Many improvements have been made to Town standards and practices that create a safe and accommodating environment for pedestrians. For example, all signalized intersections where sidewalks are present are required to provide pedestrian signals, crosswalks and pushbuttons and make sure that those pedestrian devices are ADA compliant.
All of the pedestrian signals at the Cary Parkway and Kildaire Farm Road intersection currently use countdown signal heads so pedestrians know how much time they have left to cross. In addition, the Town uses a slower walking speed now to calculate just how long that crossing time needs to be for those pedestrians that need a little more time to cross – which include older pedestrians, people pushing strollers, children, and those with disabilities. Since the existing intersection already provides these pedestrian accommodations, only minor improvements are considered as a part of the project scope. These improvements include upgrading wheel chair ramps to current ADA standards and making sure they are in an optimal location to line up with the cross walks; straightening out the “bent” cross walks, which will provide a shorter, more direct crossing distance for pedestrians; and providing enhanced high visibility cross walk pavement markings. Town staff continues to research and review other methods to help improve safety for all road users.
The major roadway improvements that are under consideration are to build an exclusive right turn lane on southbound Kildaire Farm Road, an exclusive right turn lane on eastbound Cary Parkway, widen into the median on Cary Parkway to build dual left turn lanes on the eastbound and westbound approaches, and upgrade the signal to metal pole mast arms. With the improvements considered at Cary Parkway and Kildaire Farm Road, the pedestrian crossing distance could increase by an additional 12′ of pavement on the northern and western legs of the intersection. However, the Town will make sure that there will be adequate crossing time for all users and that the crossing is as safe as possible. Keep in mind that improved flow for vehicles usually translates into safer operations for pedestrians.
Pedestrian refuges in the median allow pedestrians to wait in the center of the road for the next walk phase to finish crossing. While this treatment is located at a couple of intersections in Town, this is not a scenario that is encouraged and is not recommended as a part of this project. As one can imagine, having pedestrians wait in the middle of a busy road is not ideal and many of those that have a hard time crossing will find this situation a little frightening – especially children. Also, it is difficult for the Town to enforce or encourage people to only cross half way. Usually people do not stop in the middle and simply continue walking during the Don’t Walk light, which results in a safety concern and added delay for the vehicles.
The Town of Cary is committed to preserving and protecting our finite natural resources, environment, and attractive community. The proposed improvements may require the removal of ornamental trees and bushes in the medians and several red oak and holly trees on the southwest leg of the intersection. A landscaping plan to re-vegetate the removed landscaping is planned to be implemented at the completion of the project, and a decorative stamped concrete median is anticipated where landscaping is not feasible. The Town will make a strong effort to minimize impacts to trees and landscaping.
Town staff will continue to address concerns as we move forward with this and other bond projects for intersections. If you have questions don’t hesitate to ask.
Emails from citizens this week included mostly comments about Google fiber. Other emails included kudos for the town’s snow removal effort, a concern about the Cary Parkway and Kildaire Farm intersection improvements, a concern about our tethering ordinance, and several invitations to participate and speak at events.
This week will be a busy week. It will include several meetings, a ribbon cutting, a speaking engagement at a banquet, a work session, and a long council meeting.
Well that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, March 2nd. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communications with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.