Carrboro park path opens

Mar. 16, 2013 @ 11:08 PM

It may be just a third of a mile, but the Wilson Park Multi-Use Path is considered a lynch-pin in helping getting bicyclists safely through one of Carrboro’s most unfriendly intersections.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 10-foot wide asphalt path is scheduled for Thursday, but the path was completed in December and people are starting to discover and use it, said Racquel Benedict, the project manager for the path.

Mothers pushing strollers, people in wheelchairs, tennis players, dog walkers, bicyclists, rollerbladers, students heading to school, have all been using the forest path, but its major intent was to help bicyclists avoid a two-tenths of a mile section of Estes Drive Extension that runs from the intersection of North Greensboro Street toward Chapel Hill.

That’s also the intersection where the Francis Shetley Bike Path meets North Greensboro Street, and there are bike lanes on North Greensboro Street running in both directions.

But that one short section of Estes Drive Extension had stymied town officials, who had heard complaints for years about how dangerous it was for cyclists to ride along that narrow section of road.

The section is very narrow, and the houses are close to the road, making it difficult to widen the intersection, said Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton.

“There’s really no space to build a sidewalk or bike lane on Estes Drive,” Chilton said.

Town officials explored the idea of widening the intersection and found it would cost $1 million just to build a sidewalk on one side of the road, Chilton said.

“We really wanted to do something to make cycling and walking in the Estes Drive area safer,” Chilton said.

Jeff Brubaker, a transportation planner for the town of Carrboro, said the speed limit on Estes Drive Extension is 35 mph, but most people drive the road at 45 mph. Estes Drive Extension is one of the main streets linking Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and about 13,000 vehicles a day use the road.

“I think it’s clear that it’s not bicycle and pedestrian friendly,” Brubaker said.

In Carrboro for a road not to bicycle or pedestrian friendly, well, that’s a travesty. The town prides itself on being bicycle friendly.

That’s where the idea for the Wilson Park Multi-Use Path came from.

The new path allows people to bypass the narrow intersection by cutting through to Wilson Park, located one block north of Estes Drive Extension on Williams Street.

The path begins on Estes Drive Extension across from the entrance to the Estes Park Apartments and cuts through the woods to the park. From the park, cyclists and others can then get on Williams Street and head out to North Greensboro Street, where there are bike lanes. It’s the equivalent of a one block detour, but the quiet beauty along the path may make up for the extra time it takes.

From the path, people can also access dirt paths that meander through the Adam’s Tract.

Chilton is hoping that the town can get permission to put in a crosswalk across Estes Drive Extension so people and children will be able to cross safely to the other side.