By David Leone
WAKE FOREST — This week, for the first time, Heritage students have been able to walk to their high school from Rogers Road along an actual sidewalk.
The town recently completed construction of the sidewalk from Foundation Drive in front of the school to the new McDonald’s in the shopping center.
A new traffic light at Foundation Drive will be activated by pedestrians by push-button as well.
That short walk to keep teens off the shoulder and out of the roadway has been clamored for and planned for a long time. The recent project is paid for in a large part by grant monies from the state, through its Locally Administered Projects Program (LAPP).
It’s part of a Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) funded program, so the town of Wake Forest has had to muck its way through the grant approval process and then wait for the work to begin.
A multi-use path is now being added to a section of Durham Road from Crenshaw Hall to the N.C. 98 Bypass to the west. To the east of Crenshaw, a short sidewalk will connect to the new Richland Creek shopping center. These connections are part of the same LAPP grant that built the sidewalk at Heritage High.
“It’s a great project,” said Wake Forest Senior Planner Candace Davis, who is the town’s grant program guru. “Most of those neighborhoods have existing sidewalk in the entryway (that will connect to the path).”
Raleigh’s Wakefield development lies just on the other side of the bypass, and Davis knows of at least one parent who bikes to North Forest Pines Elementary in Wakefield with his son, a student, who is pleased with the sidewalk. Once you cross the bypass, however, there is no direct sidewalk connection to Wakefield.
The two projects total $300,000, including engineering and design. Of that, the town pays 20 percent and the grant covers the remaining amount.
Construction is also underway to add a sidewalk on Durham Road from where it currently stops just east of Tyler Run to connect to that neighborhood. That section of roadway was reduced to single lane, stop–and-go traffic early this week for that project.
Another section of the same project will put a multi-use path on Durham Road from the other end of the sidewalk, around the corner onto Wingate Street to the Wake Forest Boys and Girls Club and Wake Forest Elementary School.
On the South Main Street side of the school, the N.C. Department of Transportation, which administers the Safe Routes program, has already added a pedestrian crossing signal, which will finally be turned on.
The project, along with a section of sidewalk being added at Wake Forest Middle School to keep kids off the internal driveway there, are estimated to cost $300,000 to construct, 100 percent of which is reimbursable through the grant, Davis said.
“Town workers have done some of their own work to connect the back of the Wake Forest Elementary campus to the Community House,” she noted.
Davis has a hopper full of sidewalk, multi-use path and greenway projects for which she’s applied for matching grants. As a result, the projects town leaders have decided to build often coincide with whichever is first to see funding.
As reported recently by this newspaper, town commissioners have had to wrangle over which LAPP grant projects to prioritize, because there’s no guarantee of funding for any CAMPO project. Sometimes pedestrian and bicycle paths garner funding approval, sometimes greenways do.
“We were very successful in 2012. We applied for four projects and we got funding for three,” Davis told commissioners during a recent meeting.
At their last meeting, commissioners dithered over which projects to prioritize. Topping their list was a $386,000 project that would connect existing sidewalks along Stadium Drive from Capital Boulevard to North Wingate Street.
Stadium now has multiple sidewalk-to-nowhere segments that throw pedestrians back into the roadway, or, in one case, end in a steep drop. Stadium is used frequently by students walking to both Wake Forest High School and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The Stadium Drive project plan was praised by Commissioners Greg Harrington and Anne Hines, both whom live in Staffordshire, which exits onto Stadium.
“I go by there every day and it’s got some serious problems,” said Hines.