Council right to stay course on greenway

by Jordan Green


Construction of the next segment of Greensboro’s Downtown Greenway will proceed thanks to a $1 million contract approved by city council on Feb. 15. Voters approved a $134 million street improvement bond in 2008, which included a $7 million earmark for the greenway, and the council approved the sale of $40 million in bonds last September.

Ever on the lookout for wasteful spending on behalf of the city’s taxpayers, District 5 Councilwoman Trudy Wade raised objections.

“I would say that there would be a lot more critical needs,” she said, adding that she would expect that “High Point Road and Merritt Drive would be used a lot more than a greenway where people bicycle and walk.”

The intersection of High Point Road and Merritt Drive is severely deteriorating, and avoiding a nasty clunk requires drivers to execute a tight swerve at that light.

Pitting the two projects against each other is short sighted however, and council was wise to move forward with the greenway. A Jan.

12 memo from Transportation Director Adam Fischer lists Merritt Drive construction, with a price tag of $4 million, and High Point Road streetscaping at a cost of $800,000 as projects that the city will undertake after selling a $35 million bond package next spring.

There’s no reason Greensboro can’t go forward with both the greenway and roadway improvements in Wade’s southwestern district.

When city council districts were redrawn in 2008, District 5 was transformed into an elongated suburban footprint. One unfortunate result is that the district’s constituents hold little stake in the development of downtown, which is the city’s economic and cultural heart.

Once the Downtown Greenway is complete it will run through districts 1, 2 and 3, creating a hub in the city’s greenway system. It already sends a spoke out to the Arboretum in District 4. Future development will connect Bur-Mil Park in District 3 and Keeley Park in District 2 to downtown.

This is not a frivolous investment. The greenway will connect four of the city’s institutions of higher learning: UNCG, Greensboro College, NC A&T University and Bennett College. It will improve the health and, by extension, the life opportunities for a significant portion of residents who live on or near its path. It will draw visitors downtown and make Greensboro a more attractive place for people who are looking to start new businesses or relocate companies.

And it would be difficult to find a more highly leveraged project The $1 million contract to extend the Downtown Greenway north from Lee Street and Freeman Mill Road to Spring Garden Street is the first outlay of public funds for this project. An existing section running through the Warnersville neighborhood was financed privately. Greensboro College has donated easement for the next phase. The city will be spending $160,000 in federal stimulus funds on solar-powered lighting. All told, Fischer says upwards of $6.5 million has been raised from private sources for the Downtown Greenway.

Wade’s tax-paying constituents should find that to be a pretty good bang for the their buck.

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