Some push to continue closing Durham streets to thru traffic in ‘Shared Streets’ project

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – As the city of Durham considers ending the Shared Streets pilot project at the end of this month, some neighbors say this made their roads safer and they want the city to permanently close their streets to through traffic.

For a year, several streets in Durham have been closed to through traffic as part of the city’s Shared Streets pilot project to give families more space to walk, jog, and bike in their neighborhoods during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The streets that have been closed to traffic include Alma Street, Benjamine Street, Glendale Avenue, Maple Street, Spruce Street, Taylor Street, and Watts Street.

But city officials told CBS 17 on Monday they had sent emails to the neighborhood leaders of these streets to let them know the program would be ending on Nov. 1.

“It was always intended to be a temporary program,” said Dale McKeel, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the city of Durham.

McKeel said the city had recently received requests from residents wanting to remove the street closure barricades.

McKeel said it became a maintenance concern for the city to make sure the barricades stay in place. He also said that with colder weather on the way, there might not be as much outdoor recreational activity on the streets.

“We are also working to implement neighborhood bike routes on many of the same streets and that implementation is going to start early next year,” McKeel said.

But McKeel said shortly after the city had sent emails out to people who live on these streets, he said they had received 18 emails from residents asking that the Shared Streets project be kept in place.

Drew B. lives on Glendale Avenue, one of the streets that’s part of the Shared Streets project. Drew said he was not expecting the project to end anytime soon.

“It seemed to be a little bit of an abrupt end,” Drew said.

He said he reached out to the city calling on Durham to make the Shared Streets project permanent.

“Ultimately what it’s lead to is a slowdown in the traffic to make things safer,” Drew said.

Drew said he and his wife take their 8-month-old son Miles on strolls every day and that a majority of Glendale Avenue doesn’t have sidewalks.

“When you don’t have a sidewalk where do you walk? Then you’re pushed into the street,” Drew said. “What the project does, is it creates a safe space for everybody, and motorists are alerted to the situation.”

Drew said he realizes that the barricades may get blown over sometimes, but he said he does not think that’s a good reason to end the Shared Streets project.

“I do see sometimes the barricades get blown over and it just takes a sandbag to solve the problem,” Drew said. “It’s a small fix and a very low cost to be able to maintain and keep the signage in place.”

Tom Harris lives near West Trinity Avenue and Glendale Avenue and he said he rides his bike down Glendale often.

He said he would like to see the Shared Streets project become permanent and he doesn’t want the street to be opened back up to through traffic again.

“There are other ways to drive around our neighborhood, Glendale is not the only street they can take,” Harris said.

But other residents told CBS 17 off camera that they would like to see the barricades removed, because there is a problem with them being blown over and they are hard for motorists to see.

McKeel said the city will take the next few days to review all of the concerns and decide if they still want to end the project.

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