By Laura Smith
September 9, 2008
The town of Elon may be seeing significant changes. Members of the Elon Board of Aldermen discussed the installation of an efficient pedestrian transportation system as well as the location of the new public library at the agenda-setting meeting on Tuesday.
Jesse Day, regional planner for the Piedmont Triad Council of Governments, proposed his ideas for a more accessible community to the board.
“We want to increase the quality of life,” he said. The Piedmont Triad Council of Governments’s plan consists of additions such as added sidewalks, intersection improvements, bicycle and walking paths and more lighting for enhanced safety. The three main streets these changes would take place on would be Williamson, Lebanon, and Haggard Avenues.
Currently, the town of Elon has 7.5 miles of proposed sidewalks, six intersections to improve, and 12.1 miles of proposed bicycle lanes. Over 20 years, the cost would be approximately $2.6 million to build the sidewalks. Bicycle paths would cost $3.5 million and shared use paths would cost $2.8 million. The money for the projects will come from grants, property taxes, impact fees on development and the North Carolina Department of Transportation program.
“It will create a more vibrant downtown,” said Ken Mullen, assistant vice president for business and finance at Elon University. “It will become more pedestrian.”
Along with these improvements, Day gave policy and program recommendations. Some of PTCOG’s ideas included cul-de-sac connections, decorative lighting, a bicycle parking program, and an adopt- a- road program. It is the hope of the board that these changes will make for more efficiency and safety in getting around town as well as make the town more sustainable.
“Transportation is a big user of energy,” said Day. “Bikes and walking can replace car trips.” The board will vote on accepting the proposed plan at its agenda- setting meeting next Tuesday.
The location of the new public library was discussed at the meeting on Tuesday. There has been $80,000 worth of book donations and the town has expressed putting this to good use. The board is currently trying to decide between a location in the Beth Schmidt Park or on the Firehouse Field on Williamson Avenue, which is currently owned by Elon University.
“We’re blessed to have the problem of having two sites to choose from,” said board member, Davis Montgomery. Now the board is trying to weigh the pros and cons of each location in order to come to a collective decision.
According to Montgomery, there is concern over widening the road near the Beth Schmidt Park as well as the 45-mile-per-hour speed limit on Cook road adjacent to the park. Space has also become an issue with this location.
“Building here would be an opportunity lost,” said Montgomery. “It would max out space and we would lose the opportunity for expansion,” he said.
However, the Williamson Avenue location poses some obstacles as well.
“That is the busiest intersection in town,” said Montgomery, referring to the intersection closest to the Firehouse Field next to the railroad tracks. He is concerned over traffic congestion that already exists with the university as well as the railroad.
If the board decides to build the library on Williamson Avenue, Elon University will help pay for the cost. If the library is not built on Williamson, the university plans to use the land for other additions, such as an ice cream shop and a pharmacy.
In total, the cost of building the library would be approximately $3 million and would be paid for by Elon residents. After discussing the issue with the board and Elon citizens at the meeting, Mayor Jerry Tolley decided the board was not ready to vote on the location of the future library and that it would not be made an agenda item for next week’s meeting.
“I do not feel that we have all the information we need,” he said.