City seeks input on College Hill transportation layout
by Eric Wallace
The College Hill neighborhood of Greensboro could soon be receiving a layout change as the city looks to make the area more pedestrian-friendly.
The city issued a request for proposals earlier this month for a firm to study potential concepts for improving aspects of the neighborhood layout, including signage, intersection and pedestrian improvements. The city’s timeline calls for a firm to be selected by the end of May.
Concerns have been raised about traffic conditions in the neighborhood, including reckless driving and speeding, making it unsafe for pedestrians and bikers. The College Hill Neighborhood Association partnered with the Greensboro Planning Department and local citizens in order to create a 2015 plan that would seek to make the historic neighborhood more attractive. A 2016 plan added onto the 2015 plan to make the neighborhood layout more aesthetically pleasing. This new plan builds off of those previous recommendations.
The neighborhood, designed in the late 19th century, has grown rapidly and doing something about the increasing amount of traffic is the focus of the project.
“Our pedestrian-centric neighborhood has too many cars running through overcrowded streets and off-kilter intersections, often recklessly and too fast,” David Arneke, vice-president of the College Hill Neighborhood Association, wrote in a recent neighborhood newsletter.
“The College Hill Historic District and surrounding properties have experienced an increase in the number of residential housing units while a number of neighborhood streets have been closed, disconnected, or re-routed,” explains the introductory paragraph of the plan.
“These events have coincided with perceived increases in traffic volumes and speeds on certain streets.”
The plan calls for measures to improve traffic conditions by carrying out initial and possibly temporary “tactical treatments to alter street, intersection, and/or sidewalk configurations, for the purpose of slowing traffic, improving safety, and/or enhancing the experience of pedestrians, bicyclists, and other road users,” according to a draft of the plan. It also “may include but are not limited to new paint striping, artistic installations, bollards and landscaping features, street furniture, and signage.”
After these temporary measures go into effect, city officials will monitor which changes worked and which could be improved upon. The plan also heavily relies on the feedback from residents. Once determining which changes were successful, the plan’s developers will look to design a more permanent series of traffic and sidewalk alterations.
City officials will determine the effectiveness of the changes by monitoring “motor vehicle speed and traffic volume data, on-street parking usage data, bicycle and pedestrian traffic data, traffic law compliance rate data, comparison of posted speed limits to street design speeds, suitability of street geometry, traffic conflict points, and resident feedback.”
In the initial stages of the plan, city officials will observe key intersections and roads in order to monitor traffic patterns, speeds, pedestrian activity and what times the roads are most crowded.
After determining traffic conditions, the plan will involve constructing a specific series of steps to outline where and how roads and sidewalks will be altered.
The plan will call for “conceptual drawings to illustrate possible design solutions for the priority intersections and street segments along with recommendations for neighborhood signage and branding upgrades to create a cohesive neighborhood street upgrade program. An on-site public workshop in which residents and City staff can vet multiple possible design solutions quickly may be considered. Said concepts shall be developed in close coordination with City staff, to ensure general acceptability to all relevant departments.”
The city is also seeking a consulting firm that could help develop a more specific strategy to change the layout.
The street design and traffic concerns were mentioned in the 2015 plan as a major point of concern for residents:
“Parking and the impact of buses moving through narrow streets were some of the most talked about issues in the neighborhood survey, summits, and conversations with neighbors,” it states. “Residents stated a desire for the character of interior streets in College Hill to be returned to that of safe, neighborhood streets designed for people, rather than thoroughfares designed for high speed, high volume motor vehicle traffic.”
The 2015 plan is also a glimpse as to what future changes may be in store for the community and the emphasis of importance they place on walkability:
“Respondents stated that one of the things they enjoy most and want to preserve within College Hill is the walkable, diverse atmosphere. Stemming from this point is the strong desire by residents for a neighborhood-scale grocery store and a broader mix of pedestrian-oriented retail development, thereby avoiding the need for significant additional parking.”
The plan’s text also calls for preserving the historic buildings, creating affordable housing and reducing crime.
The 2016 plan is similar in nature and goes even further by laying out steps that can be taken:
“Residents in College Hill have expressed a strong desire to begin projects that will enhance pedestrian safety and signal motorists that College Hill is a special residential district where slower speeds are expected. Crosswalk painting and traffic circles are the highest priority projects to consider, but other upgrades, such as lane shifts, speed humps and speed tables are all elements to be studied.”
“Lane shifts and small traffic circles are possible project ideas to calm traffic and create stronger
neighborhood identity,” it goes on to state.
It estimates that the traffic upgrades may cost as much as $35,000 total over several years.
College Hill is one of Greensboro’s oldest neighborhoods and the first to gain historic status. The area encompasses landmarks such as Greensboro College, Greensboro’s first fire house, the former Wafco Mill factory and is not far from UNC-Greensboro. The community is home to about 1,565 residents in 757 households as of 2013 according to demographic data listed in the 2015 plan.