Alston Ave. Update:
I once again need to express my praise for city Transportation Manager Mark Ahrendsen and his willingness to advocate for good projects rather than simply implementing what the state tells us we need.
As outlined in Ray Gronberg's article in today's Herald-Sun, our transportation department, after many community meetings and a protracted attempt to sway NCDOT to redesign the abysmal plan for widening Alston Avenue from the freeway north to Holloway St., has begun to shift gears. Let's be clear - no one, including me, has said that the road couldn't stand improvement, and that improvement could include two through-lanes in each direction. However, NCDOT steadfastly refuses to redesign the road to a form recommended by any of their own contextual design manuals - to mitigate the hazardous effects on pedestrians and bicyclists of creating 6 lane intersections with very wide turing radii at the corners. They refuse to avoid tearing down the grocery store. They refuse to avoid creating a huge grade change near the tracks ('canyonizing' Alston.) They refuse to avoid creating cul-de-sacs out of several of the Holloway St. neighborhood streets that intersect Alston, reducing connectivity.
So our local Transportation Dept. has taken the principled stand here - meet with the public, attempt to reach compromise with the other party, and, if the other party refuses to give, walk away. Seems simple, but the very idea of walking away from money promised is anathema to many, no matter what that money is buying. Based on Ray's reporting in the Herald, count mayor Bell in that corner.
Ahrendsen has proposed that a portion of the money be spent on intersection and safety improvements to Alston Ave - and the remainder go to widening Fayetteville St. between Cornwallis Rd. and Woodcroft Parkway. Now, I've put no thought into whether that project is a good idea or not - it may be terrible. But Bell's argument against the idea - that while he's "not in favor" of the Alston widening, the plan is a bad idea because it would be a public relations nightmare to shift the money to South Durham, seems particularly misguided to me. It suggests that the city has not done an adequate job of conveying the problems with the Alston widening to the public.
Because do you really make the fairness argument if you are being 'short-changed' something bad? If someone gave crack to all your friends but not you, do you complain bitterly that you're always getting the short end of the stick? Or to put it in a more appropriate context for this website - if the city redevelopment authority had recommended against demolishing Hayti in the 1960s, and for spending the money demolishing Trinity Park, or building a bunch of cul-de-sac neighborhoods in an economically-advantaged area instead, would you make the argument that if Trinity Park was going to be demolished, then Hayti needed to be demolished too, to make it 'fair'?
No - you make the argument that both are a bad idea - or that, if you really think the cul-de-sacs are a necessary and good thing, to do that instead. Per the article, Bell's notion is that you don't walk away from negotiating the design for Alston. You absolutely do - when you come in with a compromise solution and the other side refuses to give anything. There isn't anything further that should be negotiated away from the city/public's side. As I said, the proposed changes would still allow for 4-lanes of through traffic, which it seems would be the core objective.
But trying to talk with most folks at NCDOT is like slowly plunging an ice pick into your own skull. You know it isn't going to get any better, but you keep deluding yourself that they will look up from their spreadsheets and see what a blight their roads are on a landscape. To some extent, I've given up on the notion that NCDOT will ever create anything other than vast bleak expanses of unifunctional asphalt out in Cul-de-sacia. But allowing NCDOT to wedge Standard Arterial Design #12 into an existing urban fabric should absolutely be a line in the sand.