PITTSBORO — The draft 2050 Metropolitan Transportation Plan, which includes a long-range plan for transportation improvements across the Triangle region — including the northeastern section of Pittsboro — is available for public review until Dec. 8.
Chatham County Commissioners received a presentation on the plan at the board’s September meeting, given by Andy Henry, transportation planner to Durham Chapel Hill Carrboro Metropolitan Planning Organization (DCHC MPO). The plan, developed and coordinated by the Capital Area (CAMPO) and Durham Chapel Hill Carrboro MPOs, includes projects to improve roadways, transit and bike and pedestrian areas throughout the Triangle.
“We’re trying to adopt by February 2022,” Henry told the board in September. “That’s our deadline, so we’re racing forward. It’s very busy.”
The majority of Chatham is covered in plans by TARPO, or Triangle Area Rural Planning Organization, which is a voluntary association of local governments in Chatham, Lee, Moore and Orange counties that plans rural transportation systems and advises the NCDOT on rural transportation policy. Because of Pittboro’s anticipated large population growth in future decades — the portion included in the 2050 MPO plan is expected to go up by 57,000 people — the improvement projects encompassed in the MPO will be an important part of responding well to Chatham’s growth, commissioners said.
Prior public comment indicated Triangle residents wanted to see more encouragement of biking and walking, coordination of land use and transportation and increased transit service, car pools and ride shares. Additionally, survey respondents indicated interest in reducing personal vehicle dependence, increasing sustainability, enhancing transit connectivity and increasing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
Chatham Commissioner Diana Hales said she was glad the plan the group was proceeding with seemed to take a more extensive look at environmental issues.
“I’m glad you’re looking at more from the environmental and climate change realm to figure out if in high residential areas where you have a lot of mixed use, you can do bike lanes, and you can have options for increasing the transit,” Hales said. “But in those suburban, rural-spread areas, I think that’s indeed the challenge. That’s the big challenge.”
Commissioner Karen Howard, a voting member of the DCHC MPO, asked Henry whether the collaboration with TARPO resembled the collaboration between DCHC MPO and CAMPO.
“For Chatham, how do we get the same kind of collaboration with TARPO, because I know that Pittsboro is in TARPO, and Pittsboro is going to be such a driver for transit and where our transit dollars need to be spent,” Howard said. “I think it’s probably going to be really difficult, for Chatham County’s purposes, that we’re not having the same level of conversation and collaboration.”
The 2050 MTP groups collaborate with TARPO on a project-by-project basis, Henry said. The plan assumes key land use assumptions in its scenario, Henry said: the extension of current land use plans/policies as well as increased density and mixed uses at employment hubs and travel corridors.
“We haven’t talked about aligning goals and objectives or whatever,” he said of working with TARPO.
Federal regulations require the 2050 MTP to have a financial plan, its website says, that covers project costs that must be covered by state, federal, local, private and other transportation revenues “that can be reasonably expected to be available.” The plan divides projects into three time periods: near-term through 2030, mid-term through 2040 and long-term to 2050. Many of the additional revenue resources proposed in the plan would require legislation from the state General Assembly or the U.S. Congress, the MPO website says.
Henry said transportation investments show subsequent movement in a positive direction, though not very large. For example, the change between travel time distance and overall congestion didn’t change much from one scenario to the next.
“That’s probably because underlying all of those, there’s a lot of roadway projects,” he told the board. “The hard part is the Triangle area is so large, you have so much suburban tract development around the fringes, which makes up the majority of that, and you’re not seeing the change.
“If you’re looking at a regional scale, you’re not seeing the change from the investments you’re making, say from transit and bicycle pedestrian projects,” Henry said. “Does that make sense? It’s kind of getting diluted.”
More significant change was evident in smaller areas which had implemented changes.
Henry also discussed the group’s equity measures with the board, from the integrated mobility division of the NCDOT.
“I think it’s important,” he said of the measures. “It says on average communities of color have lower vehicle ownership rates, live further from work, more people depend on public transportation are more likely to be involved in a crash as a pedestrian.”
MPO staff is working on updated measures using the Triangle Regional Model, Henry said. So far, staff has found higher numbers of serious injuries and fatalities in areas which are low income, have higher minority populations or zero-car households. Such measurements are more likely to negatively impact Chathamites in rural areas, which falls under TARPO.
A public hearing on the draft plan will occur Nov. 17 at CAMPO’s executive board meeting. Comments can be submitted online, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling 919-996-4403.
Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @HannerMcClellan.
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