Photo by Brian J. Matis

CHAPEL HILL – Estes Drive has seen increased development lately, concerning those gathered at Monday’s Central West Steering Committee.

This issue has been a concern for Chapel Hill parents, with surrounding roads becoming more difficult for students who bike or walk to school.

One audience member spoke out about the inadequate crosswalks surrounding Elliott Road while another pointed to the number of students who live close to the school but are driven instead of walking as a sign of how unsafe it is to walk to the schools.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Assistant Superintendent, Todd LoFrese, says the traffic around Phillips Middle School will soon be too great for the crossing guard to handle. One crossing guard was previously hit by a car’s side mirror on the surrounding roads.

Long range and transportation manager for the town of Chapel Hill, David Bonk, says part of the steering committee’s actions is to see what can be done along Estes Drive to possibly hold off its metamorphosis into a purely commercial road.

“Whether that should be a mix of uses, including residential and commercial and office, or whether a single use, such as residential,” Bonk says.

LoFrese, on the other hand, says that Estes Drive is already a commercial road.

“Estes Drive and Estes Road feel as though they’re part of the neighborhood, and in many ways, obviously it is. It’s a connector to all of that,” LoFrese says. “But it’s also, I think, an east-west corridor.”

Bonk says that suggestions made in the steering committee, like more bike lanes and sidewalks, would help mitigate the number of drivers in the surrounding area.

“Obviously, students age out of their walk and new students come into the neighborhood,” Bonk says. “To the degree that we can formalize some of those paths and make them wider known, it’ll help encourage more kids to use those.”

LoFrese says that any plan to make it safer for students to walk to the surrounding schools would have to include multiple ideas. He also points out that some of the problems are structural within the older schools in the area.

“They do not have the same amount of “kiss-and-go,” parent drop off space and bus queue space as our newer schools have,” LoFrese says.

The next Central West Steering Committee meeting is July 30 at the Chapel Hill Public Library at 6:00 p.m.