Roger L. Stancil, Town Manager




J.B. Culpepper, Planning Director


David C. Bonk, Long Range and Transportation Planning Coordinator




Response to Public Forum Comments: Draft Southwest Durham/Southeast Chapel Hill Collector Street Plan




November 20, 2006





This memorandum responds to comments and questions received at the October 18, 2006 Public Forum on the draft Southwest Durham/Southeast Chapel Hill Collector Streets Plan (Attachment 1).  The attached resolution would provide the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Transportation Advisory Committee with recommendations on the draft plan.




The Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization initiated the process to develop a collector roads plan for Southwest Durham and Southeast Chapel Hill. The purpose of the plan is to assess the need for additional roadway connections in the study area to support the adopted 2030 Regional Transportation Plan and provide improved connectivity between existing and anticipated development. A draft Collector Street Plan (Attachment 1) has been prepared by Kimley Horn, Inc, under contract with the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization. The Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Transportation Advisory Committee has received the draft plan and has requested that Chapel Hill and Durham provide comments and recommendations on the draft plan.


The Council held a Public Forum on October 18, 2006 to receive comments.




The following questions and comments were provided at the October 18, 2006 Forum. In addition several letters and emails were received subsequent to the Forum. (Attachment 2) When possible we have attempted to organize comments that were of a similar nature into one question rather than addressing them individually.


  1. Several citizens suggested that the proposed collector streets plan facilitates development in Durham and Chapel Hill would get none of the benefits.


Comment: We believe the proposed collector streets plan will benefit both Durham and Chapel Hill by providing a system of streets that will increase mobility through improved connectivity. The draft collector street plan is based on the principle that an effective interconnected collector network can provide the following benefits:



  1. Several citizens said that the plan was incomplete because it stopped at the Durham/Orange County line.


Comment: The draft Collector Streets plan was intended to focus on the undeveloped portion of Southwest Durham County adjacent to Chapel Hill. The decision to use the Orange/Durham County line as the project boundary reflected the existing Chapel Hill street network. The plan did not anticipate the construction of new streets in the section of Chapel Hill between Ephesus Church Road and NC54. The use of the County line as the project boundary allowed the inclusion of the existing Chapel Hill street network most directly affected by the collector street network.


  1. Several citizens pointed out that the traffic impacts of the proposed collector street network have not been studied. They suggested that the proposed plan would dump collector traffic onto local streets and result in severe impacts on Nottingham Drive and at the Pinehurst/Lancaster intersection and Ephesus Church Road/Pinehurst intersection.


Comment: The draft plan did not include a quantitative analysis of the traffic impacts on either the existing or proposed street network. Estimating traffic along local and collector streets is subjective and dependent on complete information about levels of future development. The percentage of traffic using any individual roadway is dependent upon the entire road network. One of the goals of the collector plan is to create a system of roads that provides multiple options for travel and disperses traffic so that no one facility is overburdened.


The current 2005 average daily traffic on Pinehurst Drive is approximately 2,750 car, while the 2006 traffic on Lancaster Drive is 1,036. Both Pinehurst Drive and Lancaster Drive have been designated as collectors, with anticipated traffic volumes between 1,000 and 7,000 cars per day.  We believe that the future traffic volumes along both roads would be well within the design guidelines for collector streets.


Nottingham is a local street, with a 2005 average daily traffic of 706. Local streets are designed to accommodate approximately 2,000 cars per day.


  1. A citizen claimed that the draft plan is “car centric” and does not address bicycle and pedestrian issues.


Comment: The plan is intended to address not only the needs of automobiles but also other modes. On page 1-4, the plan proposes to create “an efficient network and accommodation for automobiles, transit, pedestrians and bicycles as collector streets are constructed”.


Chapter 5, “Recommended Design Considerations” directly addresses specific design elements necessary to create “complete streets”. This chapter includes discussion of pedestrian and bicycle design issues. Chapter 5 also includes a lengthy discussion of traffic calming design elements.


  1. Several citizens proposed that Southwest Durham Drive should be aligned along George King Road.


Comment: We agree that George King Road should be considered for the proposed alignment of Southwest Durham Drive. The City of Durham has requested that the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization consider amending the alignment of Southwest Durham Drive to utilize the existing George King Road alignment from Ephesus Church Road to the point at which the Southwest Durham Drive alignment would access Meadowmont Lane. (Attachment 3)


The Transportation Advisory Committee agreed to consider this request at this time only because the realignment would not affect the connectivity of Southwest Durham Drive to the surrounding Transportation Plan network.


  1. A citizen proposed that the Metropolitan Planning Organization should provide funds to accommodate increased traffic and retrofit roads with traffic calming improvements.


Comment: We agree that the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization should allocate funds from the Surface Transportation Program Direct Allocation program to provide additional traffic calming along streets include in the collector roads plan. 


  1. A citizen said that Lancaster Drive serves an established neighborhood and should not be part of the collector network.


Comment: Lancaster Drive has been designed in successive Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Urban Area Long Range Transportation Plans as a collector since the 1990’s. It has been constructed to collector design standards, incorporating two travel lanes and room for parking or bicycle facilities. Sidewalks have also been provided along sections of the road. Collector roads by their nature also serve as neighborhood streets, with homes having direct access to the roadway.


  1. Several citizens raised concerns about air quality problems and impacts on the local area.


Comment: The Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Urban Area has recently been upgraded from a non-attainment designation to maintenance, reflecting improvements in air quality. The development of a collector street network supports improved air quality by providing multiple travel routes and dispersing traffic. The collector system can reduce reliance on congested corridors, improving travel times and reducing pollution.


  1. Several speakers requested that Meadowmont Lane be designated as a collector rather than an arterial. Concerns were raised about construction of additional travel lanes, concrete medians and increased speed limits. Concerns were also raised about an estimated 15,000 cars along Meadowmont lane in the vicinity of the Rashkis Elementary School.


Comment: The designation of Southwest Durham Drive and Meadowmont Lane as an arterial in the adopted Urban Area Long Range Transportation Plan includes the assumption that the roadway would be largely a two lane facility. The cross section would be expanded to four lanes at the intersection of NC54 and at US 15-501. The portion of Meadowmont Lane between NC54 and Sommerville Drive is currently four lanes. We do not anticipate any widening of Meadowmont Lane north of Sommerville Drive from its current two lane configuration. Durham has also indicated that Soutwest Durham Drive will also be built to the two lane cross-section between Meadowmont Lane and Farrington Road.


The 2030 traffic projection for Meadowmont Lane and Southwest Durham Drive indicates approximately 8,200 cars along Meadowmont Lane. This projection is within the 10-12,500 capacity of a two lane roadway.


  1. Several speakers also proposed to limit connections to Chapel Hill until all connections are available.


Comment: We do believe that implementing multiple connections as shown in the proposed Plan would limit any negative impacts on individual roads. The connection between Meadowmont Lane and Southwest Durham Drive will require the construction of a bridge across Corps of Engineers property. This bridge would also serve the proposed fixed guideway corridor between Chapel Hill and Durham.


  1. Concerns were raised that the designation of Meadowmont Lane as an arterial was a surprise to the developer of Meadowmont, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools and residents of Meadowmont.


Comment: The designation and design of Meadowmont Lane as an arterial was an assumed premise in the design of Meadowmont. The design of Meadowmont Lane was predicated on its function as an arterial with direct connections to Southwest Durham Drive. The Master Plan and subsequent development plans for Meadowmont identified Meadowmont Lane as an arterial and indicated that the road would be continued to the east. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools were also made aware of the designation of Meadowmont Lane as an arterial during the process of identifying the designation of the Rashkis school site.  Several existing Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools are currently located along two lane arterials, including Ephesus Elementary and Estes Hills Elementary.


  1. A resident suggested the collector roads plan violated the Comprehensive Plan goal of neighborhood protection. 


Comment: The Chapel Hill Comprehensive Plan includes several major themes, including the conservation and protection of neighborhoods and working towards a balanced transportation system.


The plan specifically identifies the following general transportation objective:


Integrate all transportation modes within existing and future developments with appropriate land uses, design standards, and infrastructure. A priority should be to connect residential areas to nearby commercial centers, schools, parks and other neighborhoods with sidewalks and bike lanes and/or paths.


  1. Residents of Lancaster Lane noted that existing sidewalks are not connected, traffic volumes are high and there is parking along Lancaster Drive for County Club events.


Comment: The 2006 average daily traffic for Lancaster Drive was 1,030. There are currently sidewalks along the western portion of Lancaster Drive. We believe that the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization should provide funding for additional pedestrian and bicycle facilities along the collector roads included in the plan.  The current design of Lancaster Drive includes provisions for parking. Parking along streets contributes to traffic calming, although sidewalks should be provided along the entire length of Lancaster Drive. With adequate sidewalks parking would further buffer pedestrians from adjacent traffic.


  1. Several residents claimed that connections to Nottingham Drive will encourage cut through traffic from the north.


Comment: We believe that with implementation of the proposed collector street network general travel patterns will gravitate towards the east from Chapel Hill into Durham rather than into Chapel Hill. The proposed connection to Nottingham Drive may result in some increased traffic. We believe that some of that traffic would travel north on Nottingham towards Ephesus Church Road, while others would travel south towards NC 54.


We also believe that some Chapel Hill traffic currently using Pinehurst Drive and Burning Tree Drive would choose to use the new collector network, resulting in reduced traffic volumes. Several residents of the portion of Meadowmont in Durham County have children attending Creekside Elementary School. The proposed collector street network would reduce traffic from these residents along existing streets such as Pinehurst Drive.


  1. Several speakers noted that Durham did not require a traffic impact analysis from the developer of property adjacent to Kinsdale Drive. A Council member asked about the Durham threshold for preparing traffic impact analysis.


Comment: The Durham Unified Development Ordinance requires the preparation of a traffic impact analysis if a proposed project generates 150 peak hour trips or more. The proposed development adjacent to Kinsdale Drive includes only 70 units, which is expected to generate approximately 70 peak hour trips.


  1. A Council member asked how the design of collector streets in Chapel Hill compared to Durham’s standards.


Comment: The City of Durham design standards for collector streets requires a 41’ cross-section, with a maximum design speed of 35 miles an hour and anticipated daily traffic volumes between 2,500 and 4,000.


The Chapel Hill Design Guidelines are less specific about design standards, requiring two travel lanes with turn lanes as necessary. Design speeds range from 25-35 miles per hour.


  1. A Council member asked about the impact of the Durham Unified Development Ordinance on potential connections between Chapel Hill and Durham.


Comment:  Council members and a citizen asked about the authority of the Town to control or prevent proposed connections of streets under the Southwest Durham Plan to streets in Chapel Hill. 


(Information in this section is based on staff conversations with Durham staff, email correspondence with Durham Staff and research by the Town Attorney.)


Based on our understanding of the proposed Southwest Durham Plan, there are two types of connections proposed under the Southwest Durham Plan: 


A.    Connection required by the Durham Unified Development Ordinance; and,

B.     Connections which are part of a proposed MPO approved Thoroughfare Plan.


  1. Connections based on Durham Unified Development Ordinance.


Some road connections are proposed based on provisions of the Durham Unified Development Ordinance. Pursuant to Section 12.3.1-F-3 of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), according to Durham planning, transportation and legal staff, the developer, for example in the development next to Kinsale Drive, will be required to build the street up to the property boundary, which will be the jurisdiction boundary. 


We believe that road stub outs to Chapel Hill’s jurisdiction, required by the Durham UDO, but not part of an MPO approved Southwest Durham Street Plan are, on Chapel Hill’s side of the jurisdiction line, generally still subject to the Town’s general regulatory over streets found under the North Carolina General Statutes, including the authority to limit access to non-vehicular traffic or to close some portion of the road if the required statutory standards are met and the procedures of law are followed.


  1. Connections based on Collector Street Plan.


Road connections that are part of the Southwest Durham/Southeast Chapel Hill Collector Street Plan adopted by the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization, we believe are generally in a different status, based on provisions of the North Carolina General Statutes recognizing the authority of metropolitan planning organizations to adopt transportation plans.


Under North Carolina General Statute Sec. 136-66.2(d), as it is currently written, within Metropolitan Planning Organizations, changes to an adopted Thoroughfare Plan are to be adopted by the MPO, not the local governing boards. (We understand that a Collector Street Plan is to be considered a Thoroughfare Plan for purposes of this analysis.) Based on this statutory language, it would appear that for those streets shown on the Collector Street Plan, the decision to connect it is made by the MPO, which the Town has a role in, but does not control.  We believe that we still reasonable to conclude that we retain authority to regulate certain matters within our jurisdiction for those roads which are not State roads, including speed limits, and installation traffic calming devices. However, the MPO, and not the Town, would decide whether there is a connection.


We have also identified a possible issue related to the timing of changes in related State law and the date of execution of the MPO Memorandum of Understanding. The one complicating factor in the analysis in Section 2, above, appears to be the timing of certain changes to these provisions of State statute and the execution of our current MPO Agreement, as more fully explained below:


  1. The Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization Memorandum of Understanding is dated 1993 and was signed in early 1994.  That document states, on page 5:


“The Thoroughfare Plan is an element of the comprehensive transportation plan, and as required by General Statutes’ Section 136-66.2(d) revisions in the Thoroughfare Plan must be jointly approved by the local governing boards and the North Carolina Department of Transportation”.


  1. In 2000, the General Assembly enacted changes to the transportation planning statutes in Session Law 80 and recognized metropolitan planning organizations.  Among the provisions of that Session Law was the new G.S. 136-200.1.  That section reads, in part: Metropolitan planning organizations in existence on the effective date of this section continue unaffected until redesignated or restructured in accordance with the provisions of and according to the procedures established by 23 U.S.C. § 134 and this Article.


  1. In 2001, Session Law 168 amended G.S. 136-66.2.  Specifically, a sentence was added to 66.2(d) which reads as follows:  For MPOs, either the MPO or the Department of Transportation may propose changes in the plan at any time by giving notice to the other party, but no change shall be effective until it is adopted by both the Department of Transportation and the MPO.  (emphasis added). 


This language is not consistent with the terms of our current MPO Memorandum of Understanding.


Thus, at the time our MPO Memorandum of Understanding was executed, the law provided that changes in a Thoroughfare Plan must be approved by local governing boards.  It does not appear that any modification was made to the Memorandum of Understanding following the change in the law.  However, based on the changes to the statutes, staff is operating with the understanding that the MPO, and not the individual jurisdictions, approve the Thoroughfare Plan, with the understanding that each local jurisdiction has input through their representatives on the MPO.


Staff has also identified several additional issues related to the proposed Collector Streets Plan.


The draft plan includes the proposal to construct collector streets across I-40 north and south of US 15-501. This proposal is consistent with the previously approved US 15-501 Transportation Master Plan, which included recommendations to provide alternative connections between the four quadrants of the US 15-501/I-40 interchange to reduce anticipated congestion along US 15-501. The proposed collector street south of US 15-501 differs from the US 15-501 Master Plan in that it proposes a separate crossing for the roadway and the fixed guideway corridor.


Comment: We believe the proposal to have separate crossings of I-40, south of US 15-501, for the fixed guideway system and the collector street may be unrealistic. The US 15-501 Master Plan proposed a single combined crossing of I-40, recognizing the cost of any bridge  would be significant and the likelihood of securing funding for the bridge would be enhanced if it were a combined facility.


Figure 5.1 of the draft plan illustrates the future land use plan for Southwest Durham County and how the proposed collector street network serves that area.


Comment: Figure 5.1 does not show the realigned fixed guideway corridor or the station location recently approved by the Metropolitan Planning Organization. Chapel Hill has requested further clarification concerning the consistency between transit oriented development around the proposed Southwest Durham fixed guideway station and the adopted Durham land use plan. Figure 5.1 suggests that future development in the station area would be medium to medium high residential, with residential densities ranging from 6-20 units per acre. It is unclear whether this land use designation would allow for integration of non-residential commercial, service or offices uses in the station area.




The Council’s recommendations on the Draft Southwest Durham/Southeast Chapel Hill Collector Streets Plan will be submitted to the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Transportation Advisory Committee. The Committee is anticipated to consider adoption of the draft plan in December, 2006.




Planning Board:  On September 19, 2006 the Planning Board voted 6-0 to recommend the Council adopt the Collector Streets Plan as proposed (Attachment 1).


Transportation Board: On September 28, 2006 the Transportation Board voted 6-0 to recommend the Council approve the draft plan as proposed. The Board proposed that the connection of the proposed collector streets be synchronized as closely as possible (Attachment 1)    .


Staff Recommendation:  We recommend that the Council adopt the attached resolution providing the Durham-Chapel Hill-Carrboro Transportation Advisory Committee with the following recommendations:




  1. Draft Southwest Durham/Southeast Chapel Hill Collector Streets Plan (begin new page 1).
  2. Additional Comments (p. 95).
  3. Proposed Southwest Durham Drive Realignment (p. 101).