Transportation: Triangle Moves Forward

Story by Hal Goodtree. Pictured above: Personal Rapid Transit vehicle.

Cary, NC –  The Regional Transportation Alliance (RTA) held its annual meeting at Embassy Suites in Cary last Wednesday. More than 200 business leaders, elected officials and transportation experts from across the Triangle gathered to hear the “State of Mobility” presentation on transportation issues and accomplishments in our region during the last year.

Accomplishments

Good transportation – by road, rail and air – is vital to the economic health of our region. It’s also a vital factor in our “quality of life.” After all, who wants to live in a region that’s a transportation nightmare? Ask any transplant from New York, Boston or Atlanta.

The good news, as reported by Joe Milazzo, RTA Executive Director and Rick Weddle, RTA Chair, was that the Triangle has a pretty robust transportation infrastructure and it’s improving steadily. Several important projects were started or funded this year:

  • 147 Triangle Expressway – Now under construction. Slated for completion in December 2011.
  • NC 540 – Now under construction. Slated for completion in December 2012.
  • East End Connector – Also called the I-85 Connector, it will hook up 540 and 147 with I-85, eliminating a detour through city streets on our major artery to the north. Construction will begin in Fall 2013.

Buses or Trains?

One of the key issues for 2011, according to Milazzo, is to decide between two competing plans for the next 15 years. Both plans mix bus and train components, but in different measures.

  • Plan 1 – Major improvements to rail transportation, completing a grid from UNC Chapel Hill through Durham, RTP, Cary and Raleigh, extending down to Clayton and up to Wake Forest. Incremental improvement in bus transportation.
  • Plan 2 – Major improvements in bus transportation, incremental steps in improving our regional rail grid. The rail links from north Raleigh to Wake Forest  and between Durham and Chapel Hill are not in this plan..

Both plans are scheduled to be completed by 2025.

At stake is which plan will be submitted to a voter referendum on a proposed half percent sales tax increase to fund transportation.

Interestingly, both plans have Cary pretty much in the center of transportation grid. But for other towns, which plan gets adopted could have a big impact on their future.

What Do You Think?

Generally speaking, would you like to see more rail or more bus in the Triangle? Send you thoughts to transportation@carycitizen.com.

Gaining Altitude at RDU

Milazzo also highlighted several interesting developments at RDU.

  • RDU flights are cheaper than similar flights from CLT (Charlotte)
  • RDU is one of the nation’s most successful as measured by growth
  • Delta added 14 new flights in August (as reported on CaryCitizen)

The renovation of Terminal 2 has been moved up to January 23, 2010 to accommodate the flood of visitors for the NHL All-Star Game the following week. The expansion of Terminal 2, the largest project in the history of RDU, has been going on for five years and will add 17 new gates plus 13 shops and restaurants.

RDU released this photo in October of decorative concrete recently poured outside the bag claim area.

Personal Rapid Transit and Other Pot Pourri

The RTA really brings together some innovative thinking about transportation. Some interesting tidbits for Cary citizens:

  • Quick Crossovers – An alternative to Roundabouts. They’re quick to fund, build and use and are gaining popularity across the U.S.
  • BOSS – Stands for “Bus on Shoulder.” It’s an easy retrofit for existing highways. We may to see it in a few years on I-40.
  • Personal Rapid Transit (pictured top of page) – This personal transportation pod, which looks like something from the Jetsons (or maybe a toaster), is already in use at Heathrow Airport.

Quick crossover, or diverging diamond exchanges, are an attractive alternative to roundabouts.

RTA Means Business

The Regional Transportation Alliance, with the motto “Let’s Get Moving,” serves as the voice of business for transportation initiatives and policy across the Triangle.  The Alliance focuses on strategic issues that will decrease the area’s commuting times, expand mobility options, improve shipping efficiency, and attract and retain top businesses in the region. The Alliance was founded by the Cary, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Durham, and Raleigh chambers of commerce in 1999.

Over 100 major businesses including Cisco, IBM, Progress Energy, Quintiles and Research Triangle Park, along with 23 area chambers of commerce are members of the Alliance.

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