Wednesday, March 30, 2016

8/7/2009; On Greensboro's Urban Loop

"Scores of homes built in blacktop bull's-eye

...the new loop around eastern and northern Greensboro will be Interstate 840…a controlled-access freeway carrying an estimated 72,200 cars and trucks each day hurtling along at 65 mph or more.

Chris Boulware…lives in one of a dozen neighborhoods that local officials approved in recent years on land butting directly against the future Urban Loop or, as in the case of Carriage Woods, separated only by a wedge of woods or field.

Developments range from Briarmeade and Wynterhall east of U.S. 29 to the Bluffs at Richland Creek and Liberty Square on the city’s northwestern side.

All of the neighborhoods were approved after it became known that the loop had targeted a $300 million, concrete-and-asphalt bull’s-eye on these areas.

In the last decade, local government has authorized relatively close residential development similar to what exists across town in southwest Greensboro, where residents were outraged by highway noise and related issues after the latest section of the Urban Loop debuted there 16 months ago.

…judging from what happened last year in southwest Greensboro, people living too close to all that whizzing, new traffic will not be happy campers.

“I don’t want to be on the City Council when they cut it through Lake Jeanette,” veteran Councilman Robbie Perkins said of the uproar the loop’s construction likely will cause in that area of upper-income homeowners near the lake’s namesake road. “There’s going to be people out there who will be absolutely devastated.”

…The disruption that threatens the city’s northern tier stems from sources that include weak real estate laws in North Carolina, glib sales pitches, opportunistic developers, inexperienced buyers, and limited understanding of expressway design and construction among some local officials.

…the state DOT doesn’t make local development decisions, Gene Conti, the state’s new secretary of transportation said. So part of the answer is local officials working harder to defend city residents from new neighborhoods that make too little allowance for DOT’s 800 pound gorilla waiting in the wings.

Some Greensboro residents bought new homes along unbuilt sections of the loop thinking that when the road was built, it surely would come equipped with sound-deadening walls.

Unfortunately not, said Gregory Smith, a DOT specialist in highway noise.

When the state establishes a highway corridor, as it did for the Urban Loop in 1996, it accepts limited responsibility for noise protection for all existing development along that route.

Anything built after that falls on local government or the developer to protect from highway noise, Smith said.

Not long ago, Smith examined aerial photography of the route across northern Greensboro, showing all the newly developed areas that don’t have a chance of getting sound barriers on the DOT’s dime.

“I was amazed at how much construction had occurred since the original document was filed in 1996,” he said.

City zoning officials don’t always understand such nuances when they authorize projects beside or near the loop’s future route. They seldom discuss the new road’s effect on future residents.

“I do not recall a case I voted on where I was intimately knowledgeable about the Urban Loop,” City Council member Zack Matheny said of the two years he served on the city’s Zoning Commission before his election to the council.

 “You can tell people that a tsunami is a huge wall of water,” Perkins said. “But the reality is very different from just being told. When it’s actually coming at you, it’s a whole different animal.”

Taft Wireback
Greensboro News and Record