Five years ago I got tired of seeing so many bicycle riders and walkers try to safely negotiate our twisty winding heavily traveled Colington Road (officially State Route 1217) that barely has a shoulder and started an awareness group on Facebook. That group is now 1000+ strong. Without any membership drive. And actually very few updates. Admittedly I am not the pro-active leader this group needs. I have however chatted numerous times with NCDOT.
Helen Chaney (NCDOT Bike and Pedestrian Division) even once told me in a phone conversation that she could probably get me a million, yes a million, dollars.
I was so dumbstruck that I could not fathom what I would do with a million dollars without NCDOT to guide me. Not that they were refusing. She just was not coming forward with a plan and, to repeat, I was totally speechless. It was the just after the Christmas season. I was distracted. Of course, I said okay. But did not follow up with what now, or how, what do I need to do. And she did not offer a plan. So we hung up. Naive me thought that she would come through later with more details.
Ah hind sight. She never answers my emails or calls. Helen. Helen. Helen. Do over please.
I’m not even sure that Helen is in the Bike & Pedestrian Division any longer. Floundering here!
A recent email to Lauren Blackburn current NCDOT Bike & Ped Division Director (we have chatted before when she was interim) confirms that Helen is in another department. I am assigned to the low man on the totem who quickly responds that she will look into the matter and get back to me. Lauren also assures me that she will check on the status of the project as her department only made recommendations.
Quickly, maybe too quickly, Gary Lovering sends me a detailed reply saying that the project is scheduled to begin in 2018 and will have 7′ wide shoulders with a one foot painted division line. I and our group followers are elated. Not for the time delay yet again. But for a reasonably wide shoulder (the original plan called for a 4′ wide shoulder for pedestrian traffic).
Later the cynic in me begins to ponder if Gary is a NCDOT spin doctor. Especially after Donna Creef Dare County Planning Director, tells me, “The last I heard about the road/bicycle improvements for Colington Road was that the project had to be reconsidered for funding based on the criteria used by NCDOT.”
I mean property acquisition is on schedule to begin in November 2017. And construction begin in April 2018? No way all that property is going to be squared away in six months. So if that’s puffery possibly the entire thing is. Donny says that it is pretty common knowledge, even though those in power will deny it, that Dare County is to be denied help from any North Carolina government agency until further notice. We got too much for way too long. Now we must pay our wait your turn dues. Like we really got too much. Please. Amending this paragraph in case you are just now reading this post. Actual right of way acquisition is due to begin November 2016 not 2017. Still ambitious but doable if everything goes well.
Anyway while we are a real grassroots organization in that we have no formal committee, no bank account and no plan we do have Dare County Board of Commissions support, Town of Kill Devil Hills support, Colington Harbour Association support. And Dare County Planning support. In the summer of 2011 Donna assigns her intern the task of documenting every parcel along Colington Road with plotted right of way. Derek does an amazing job. He puts contact information and a photo of each parcel on an individual sheet and organizes all by which side of the road the property sits on. Donna also prints us a huge overview map of the both islands and parcel property lines.
Donny & I used that invaluable information and money from our own pocket to mail a letter explaining the need for a safe pathway to every property owner whose land fronts on Colington Road. Over two hundred. We included a stamped reply postcard with a check box in favor of or opposed to a pedestrian pathway. Of the returns we got, which were well over half, the numbers ran about 3 to 1 in favor. Several of the nay sayers want to see a plan before committing. Fair enough.
In the spring of 2012 Steve Lambert then of Albemarle Rural Planning Organization approves a mailing to every tax payer on the two islands suggesting the need for a safe non-vehicular pathway. He funds. We label (thanks again to Donna who prints labels for us) and organize by zip code over 5000 letters (envelopes thankfully stuffed by the printing company).
And now we wait and nudge NCDOT. And hope that the plan Gary outlined is real and thank NCDOT for listening to concerned citizens. We are not talking about recreational folks, although those will use a safe path in abundance. We are talking about folks that have no other means of ingress and egress to their homes on the islands.
Yes, I did give Neil and Hope a ride to the beach. He says that he usually rides his bicycle but knew that Hope needed a day at the beach. He was not actively hitching as you can see by the video. He likes the walk. It’s just five miles along a dicey curving road that even at the 35 miles per hour speed limit is unsafe.
I leave you with one to the point statistic. The counter at the gate of Colington Harbour registered in 2011 over 100,000 vehicles entering the harbour monthly in the summer. That’s over 3,000 vehicles a day and only going one way. And that was in 2011.
If you have any thoughts, influence or ideas contact NCDOT and let your voice be heard. Phone numbers and email addresses are on the website.