If you’ve traveled along Estes Drive in the past year, you’ve encountered a perfect use case for why connected streets are important.

I have yet to speak to anyone that’s excited about having to travel on Estes Drive during this construction (or even before the construction). This single road illustrates more clearly than any in the surrounding area the failings and dangers a lack of connected roads have on a community.

Because of this road block, all of the vehicles that are traveling from East to West on Estes now have at most three viable alternatives.

To the North, they can take Weaver Dairy Road which adds an additional 2 miles to the trip (an impressive 111% increase) and adds an additional 6-7 minutes of travel time (which is around a 100% increase).


Option two to the north is via Piney Road – it’s in my opinion the least viable and most difficult because it requires around seven different turns to navigate through this Cul-de-sac riddled maze of a neighborhood, which probably would receive a WalkScore of -50 if negative scores existed. This adds less total miles (~1.2 additional miles) but still adds an additional 6-7 minutes of total travel time which is still around 100% increase.


The third option is in the south, via Hillsborough St. – it still adds an additional 1.5 miles but adds the fewest amount of extra time at only about 5 minutes. (again, still a 100% increase).


All of these alternatives increase the vehicle miles traveled and decrease the overall safety of the road system.

In contrast – if you look at a similar scenario within a gridded town, the total increase in miles can be as little as .1, and travel times are nearly identical.

If we were living in Durham and trying to get to Whole Foods from north of I-85, even if they shut down all access to Hillsborough Road (one of the main roads in that area) we have many alternatives.

In fact, this type of grid problem is one that’s extensively studied. If, as is likely the case in Durham there’s a combination of 10 x 10 cross streets that could take you to Whole Foods, you would have 184,756 unique paths to chose from.


Connected roads set up in a grid disperse traffic, make all of the roads in a town safer. Instead of all cars taking one route, they take many routes – so there’s less traffic on each one.

Connected roads help with the resilience and efficiency of a transportation system for cars, trucks, people bicycles and all!

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Brian Crawford lives in Carrboro with his wife and two kids. He has a Masters in Data Science and enjoys using data to help make the world a better place. He believes in creating strong towns, with complete...