Friday, April 8, 2016

West Branch Traffic Study leaves too many questions for pedestrian safety.

At the proposed West Branch neighborhood Public Information Session at Davidson Town Hall back in February, one of the hottest topics and biggest concerns from attendees was traffic.  Unfortunately, developers couldn't answer any hard questions on the subject at the time.  The required traffic study was still in the works.

Well, now the report is up on the town website.  It is dated March 15th.  See the full report here.

When asked earlier this week what the town thought of the study, town Planning Director, Jason Burdette had this to say.

"We’ve not had the opportunity to review the TIA yet. When we do, it will involve NCDOT since Davidson-Concord Road is state-maintained."

Considering that the Town Board is scheduled to vote next week on a rezoning request related to the project, we here at aShortChronicle wanted to take a look prior to that important vote.  Our staff, aka concerned citizens, jumped right into the document.

Here is the meat of it..

1. No safety improvements recommended for the area because of the West Branch project.

From the TIA...

"Based on the analysis results, minor impacts are expected by the proposed development. No queue issues are expected."

Really?!?!  Adding 306 houses - which is basically the size of the Bradford and Bailey Springs neighborhoods combined - will cause no impact.

2. The study also puts a price tag on safety. A roundabout was studied for the dangerous Robert-Walker/Davidson-Concord intersection, but it is too darned expensive.

From the TIA...

"Additional analysis intersection was performed using a roundabout as the traffic control at the intersection per discussions with the Town of Davidson. Analysis results that the single lane roundabout will operate efficiently under future build conditions. With a constant growth rate of 2%, the roundabout will operate effectively for 19 years before reaching capacity. Although the construction of a roundabout would accommodate future traffic needs, the conversion of this intersection to a roundabout is not recommended due to the high cost of construction, impact to neighboring properties, and the fact that no significant queues are expected at this intersection under build conditions as an unsignalized intersection."

This is a very dangerous intersection which had a near fatality involving a pedestrian just three years ago.  See here for that story.

However, citizens are to believe it's too expensive to fix for a development that will undoubtedly make it worse.

As for a roundabout impacting neighboring properties, that would only be River Run.  Here's what Mickey Pettus the president of the RR-POA had to say about it.

"I believe that our Association would strongly recommend a traffic light for that intersection to provide safe entry and exit of wheeled traffic to and from the West Branch and River Run. Alternatively, a roundabout is another means to accomplish the desired results.

We recognize the efforts of our Town Commissioners to provide a safer pedestrian crossing of Davidson-Concord at the intersection. But, with the increase of retail and residential wheeled traffic at the intersection, we need to concentrate on the safer management of those vehicles as well."

That sure doesn’t sound like making that intersection safer with a roundabout would be any kind of inconvenience, now does it?

So how did the authors of this TIA come to these conclusions?  Again, the "staff" here at aShortChronicle had some interesting findings.

1.  The "peak" hours for AM and PM traffic counts do not fully include the start and end times for nearby Hough High and Bailey Middle schools.  Thus, they likely are off somewhat.  The pedestrian accident mentioned in the above link occurred outside this window with a Hough student.

2.  While the traffic counts do include pedestrians and bicycle crossings, the counts are artificially low due to the times used.  Weekday rush hour is not when pedestrians are mostly out and about in this area.  Weekends would get significantly higher numbers.

3.  The study explicitly says no other approved developments in the area impact the study.  However the town is currently planning to push forward with the Bailey Springs park which could dramatically increase pedestrian activity in the entire area.

4.  There is some question about the extent of the greenway along the frontage of the new development along Davidson-Concord Rd.  If it does not fully cover the entire length of West Branch, that will significantly increase crossings of Davidson-Concord at Appollinaire and at Robert-Walker.

5.  Anecdotally, residents who stand out waiting for the school bus in that area also say the numbers of trucks counted seem low based on their daily experience.  These numbers will also be much higher during the years of buildout for West Branch.  That increase should be accounted for as well.

In summary, this traffic study and its recommendations do not appear to address the increased pedestrian safety issues caused by the scale of the West Branch neighborhood in this area.  Remediating these issues will need to be addressed at some point, and the cost should not be externalized by the developers onto the town's taxpayers.

Due to how this project has proceeded, Davidson Commissioners have limited opportunity to impact it.  The one major card they hold is the approval of the West Branch map amendment scheduled for this Tuesday.  Before they approve this map amendment, the safety concerns mentioned here or by other citizens need to be addressed.

You can contact the Town Board at to express your own concerns.

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