WILMINGTON — Wilmington City Council was split in its initial hearing on whether to reduce the speed limit on Greenville Loop Road, an ordinance narrowly approved 4-3 Tuesday.
Spearheaded by Councilman Charlie Rivenbark, at the behest of an impassioned group of neighbors who live off the urban collector street, the proposal to reduce the speed limit from 40 mph to 35 mph will be heard for a second time before officially passing; while the ordinance passed its first hearing, a motion to waive its second reading failed.
The ordinance will also lower the limit around Bradley Creek Elementary School from 30 mph to 25 mph during school hours.
Reducing limit, new controls
Rivenbark was not pleased with the apparent speed bump in getting the ordinance quickly and unanimously passed by council.
“I thought that’d be the easiest thing I’d ever brought before us in my 20 years down here,” he said after the vote.
Council members Margaret Haynes, Kevin O’ Grady, and Mayor Bill Saffo voted against the ordinance. Haynes said she’d prefer to adhere to staff’s recommendation, and Saffo said he’d rather implement a trial period to test out the new speed limit instead.
“I think we owe that to the community to at least try,” Saffo said.
Alternative measures may be more effective than changing the limit, Haynes explained: “We should do what professionals have suggested. I agree something needs to be done there.”
Earlier this month, the city’s head traffic engineer gave council a presentation on the street, recommending alternative improvements to control speed on the well-traveled cut-through. Staff recommended additional signage displaying the speed limit and curve warnings to keep drivers within the lines. Drivers frequently meander outside marked lines on the road’s deepest curve.
The recommended measures will be installed regardless of the official outcome of the speed limit change.
After the March 1 presentation, Rivenbark emailed the city manager, stating information shared about the corridor was outdated and inaccurate. Denys Vielkanowitz, the head engineer, refuted Rivenbark’s assertion and explained in an email to the manager the data he used in his analysis was up to date.
Data shows the average speed on the road is about 44 mph, Vielkanowitz told council earlier this month. He said the speed limit should remain 40 mph because it falls within 5 mph of the most traveled speed.
In 2003, the city established the street’s limit at 40 mph to accommodate input garnered from residents, though the recommendation according to data at the time was to set it at 45 mph.
The trail continues
Council also approved $151,110 in design financing for the first phase of the Greenville Loop Trail as a consent item Monday.
The city is aiming to expedite work on the project, which is running at least $1.58 million over budget. At $8.2 million, the project was only budgeted for $6.8 million in the 2014 voter-approved transportation bond.
The city is covering the funding gap using cost-savings from other transportation bond projects, staff told council in late November. At 4.3 miles, the trail will provide pedestrian and cyclist access between Holly Tree Road and the intersection of Greenville Loop Road and Oleander Drive, ultimately connecting the South College Road Trail to the Cross City Trail.
Now, the South College Road Trail drops off across the street from Krispy Kreme on the west side of South College.
Council funded design for the third portion of the trail earlier this month. Split into three sections, the middle portion of the trail — the Pine Grove Drive connector — will be completed last. This section is being designed and funded as part of a separate city project to turn the Pine Grove-Greenville Loop intersection into a roundabout.
Construction for the first and third sections will wrap up in late 2022, with the Pine Grove portion expected to be complete by late 2023.
In all, the trail will include three pedestrian crossings: one on Greenville Loop Road, one across South College, and one across Oleander. City officials and consultants are considering placing the Greenville Loop crossing near the deep bend in the road or around Bradley Creek Elementary School. Providing a safe crossing on the west side of Greenville Loop Road across Oleander Drive is a primary concern for staff, according to this week’s presentation.
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