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WAKE FOREST — Town officials on Tuesday heard an update from a consultant developing a comprehensive plan on transportation needs and solutions that is expected to carry the town through the next quarter century.
The town has sought an updated plan to find ways to address transportation needs that will cope with an exploding population and ongoing business development. The last comprehensive transportation plan was approved in 2010.
At the Wake Forest Board of Commissioners meeting Tuesday, Will Letchworth, a project manager with WSP Global Inc., told officials about the progress the company has made in developing the new plan. The town is expected to adopt the plan in August after it is finalized.
The plan isn’t a commitment of funds or specific projects, but rather a general framework the town can use as it decides how best to move people and goods across the town and region.
Here are five things to know about the comprehensive transportation plan — and getting around Wake Forest more generally.
1. plan includes cars, bikes, rail
The transportation plan is described as multimodal and will encompass everything from bicycles, pedestrians, cars, trucks, buses and commuter rail.
Consultants are examining crash and traffic data, particularly at six “hot spot” intersections in town. It’s also making sure that people who want to walk or bike somewhere in town find it easy and safe to do so.
“Is it comfortable? Is it safe? Are there efficient connections?” Letchworth said of some of the questions he is reviewing.
The plan is also reviewing ridership levels on existing transit routes, looking at what roads may need to be widened and what new interchanges or access points should be built.
Letchworth drew laughs from the commissioners when he joked about the amount of data and research that has gone into the plan so far.
“It’s based on a lot of technical analysis,” Letchworth said. “This is not us just sitting in a room with a thick crayon drawing lines on a map.”
2. Capital Boulevard is packed
But you probably already knew that.
Capital Boulevard is one of the main thoroughfares between Wake Forest and Raleigh. And according to census data, a lot of people use it every day: 92 percent of people who live in Wake Forest don’t work in Wake Forest.
Many locals commute to downtown Raleigh, north Raleigh, Morrisville or the Research Triangle Park for work, Letchworth told the commissioners. More than 60 percent of citizens commute at least 10 miles each way.
“This is one of the things that really spoke to me as we were going through this process,” Letchworth said. “This really helps us also place a focus on those major roadways that lead to U.S. 1.”
The N.C. Department of Transportation has already unveiled a plan to convert Capital Boulevard (U.S. Highway 1) between Raleigh and Wake Forest into a six-lane freeway.
The town’s transportation plan will consider what else can be done to ease traffic jams during rush hour.
“When you start to talk about and think about things like commuter rail — that would run down the U.S. 1 corridor — you begin to see that, hey, that might make a lot of sense because there are a lot of people that are going to be working in reasonable proximity to commuter rail,” Letchworth said.
3. Wake Forest is growing fast
A major area of review in the transportation plan is looking at the future. For Wake Forest, that means looking at a lot of growth.
“We’ve reviewed current and project population and employment and current and project land use,” Letchworth said as he presented a map of Wake Forest showing areas of current and planned development. Huge swaths of the town were colored on the map, indicating construction plans.
“As you will see here, that is a lot of the town of Wake Forest that is still under development,” he added.
He said previous models that predicted the town’s population and employment growth appeared to greatly underestimate the rate of growth. His team upped those projections and worked to make sure that as more people come to Wake Forest, there will be a plan in place to accommodate their transportation needs.
4. Plan won’t solve all traffic
As Letchworth put it, don’t expect constant free-flow movement whenever and wherever you want to go.
“We’re not trying to solve all of the world’s traffic problems here,” Letchworth said. “But we are trying to make sure it is safe and efficient to get around the town of Wake Forest.”
Instead, the plan is focusing on promoting flexibility to allow travelers to chose from different modes of transportation that best fit their needs. It will also encourage the town to use modern technology to make travel safer.
Other goals of the plan are to promote transportation education, ensure low-income citizens are equally served, maintain the town’s history, and focus on the best use of funds given budget constraints.
5. town wants public feedback
A final public meeting will be held next month where citizens can share their interests and concerns with the consultant.
Citizens will also be offered a look at a draft of the recommendations in the plan. Town officials are hoping many will turn up and provide feedback on that draft.
“We really need and want the public’s input,” Letchworth said, explaining that the draft will be modified based on public feedback before it is presented to the commissioners for approval.
The meeting will be May 16 from 5-7 p.m. at the Renaissance Centre, 405 S. Brooks St.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners:
• Waived a rental fee for organizers of a Rocket and STEM day at Joyner Park on May 4.
• Proclaimed May as Physical Fitness and Active Lifestyle Month.
• Proclaimed May as Building Safety Month.
• Proclaimed May 2 as National Day of Prayer.
• Proclaimed May 12-18 as National Police Week.
• Proclaimed May 19-25 as National Public Works Week.
• Adopted a new annexation agreement with the City of Raleigh.
• Approved the Town of Wake Forest Emergency Operations Plan.
• Approved the Greenway Art Master Plan.
• Approved a resolution authorizing the town manager to execute an Ailey-Young Dam restoration contract with Fluvial Solutions Inc.
• Appointed Dana Leach, Alex Druar and Tonya Peele to the Cultural Resources Advisory Board.
• Appointed Mayor Vivian Jones as the voting delegate to the N.C. League of Municipalities City Vision Conference.
• Revised the parking ordinance on West Sycamore Avenue to allow for some resident-only parking.
• Approved enacting a 40 mph speed zone on Durham Road.
• Waived the six-month waiting period for McAdams to resubmit a text amendment application.
• Approved the rezoning of the proposed Devon Square subdivision off Capital Boulevard to Highway Business Conditional District and Residential Mixed Use Conditional District, allowing plans to build 148 town homes.
• Approved the rezoning of property on Wall Road to General Residential Conditional District.
• Established an Irrevocable Trust for Other Post-Employment Benefits and a Law Enforcement Officer Special Separation Allowance.
• Approved authorizing the town to apply for a one-time ABC permit for Friday Night on White.