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Community Agenda top 5: Traffic and Infrastructure

WHQR’s Community Agenda project has reached more than 1,000 community members, asking them one question: what should Wilmington city council candidates be talking about? Infrastructure and traffic both make the top 5.

Infrastructure and traffic are major concerns for Cape Fear residents, and the problems are closely tied — many residents say they want better road design, more roads, or traffic control devices in public streets.

While Wilmington City Council doesn’t control all roads in town, it controls some. And it can play a role in securing traffic control devices when a new development goes in: anything from a traffic light to a crosswalk to a multi use path.

Sometimes the city can require that infrastructure to be paid for, in whole or in part, by the developer.

And infrastructure isn’t just roads — it’s also bridges and sidewalks, and management for storm water and sunny day flooding.

Out of 1,001 responses, 126 Cape Fear residents cited infrastructure concerns, and 114 cited traffic during WHQR's Community Agenda.

Marie Gordon was one of them. She's concerned that city council is behind the ball in managing traffic when new developments go in.

"They're not doing anything to enhance the roads around those areas that they're putting that massive amount of housing in, so you don't have the infrastructure to support it. So the traffic is only going to get worse.”

She also worries about development across the Cape Fear River, although the city has less say in that matter. "We've got a bridge problem there anyway," she exclaimed. "Wilmington is a charming city. It's a livable city. It's a walkable city, for the most part, if you're in the historic downtown. Once you get out of there, then we got don't even get me started on public transportation around here.”

Some residents were concerned about needing more traffic lanes, but others worried that that kind of development would do more harm than good. Sean Gallagher works at Thalian Hall, and says adding more traffic lanes “induces demand” while deterring alternative modes of transportation. He says those wide roads can lead to more pedestrian fatalities.

"We need to begin addressing this in a way that's not just continually more traffic, more traffic, more cars, more cars," he said.

Gallagher also wants to see the Rail Realignment project come to fruition. "Why not look into it like rail system?" he asked. "And everyone will say, 'Oh, well, we're not big enough.' But the time to do it is before you grow, when all your like right of ways and property is way more expensive. You infrastructure isn't supposed to make money. That's one of the things that infuriates me about the criticisms of Wave Transit, is you constantly hear it, oh, it's losing money, losing money. It's a public service.”

Elaine Herzog lives near Independence and Carolina Beach Road, where new developments are under construction.

“Now they're going to be putting how many 500 apartments, which is like 1000 will cause a guy will never get out of this development. We only have one way. And one way out, which I like, I don't want entries in the entryway exits, because nobody bothers us. But they have to put a traffic light or something there.”

WHQR heard similar concerns about developments like Riverlights — where residents inside the neighborhoods struggle to get out with existing infrastructure.

These are just a few voices we heard on traffic and infrastructure problems in Wilmington. We’ll bring these concerns directly to council candidates at our candidate forum on Monday October 23 at CFCC’s Union Station.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant new to the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.