The Town of Chapel Hill is planning the next steps of the eastern extension of the Morgan Creek Greenway. The current greenway stops at the east end at Merritt’s Pasture. We have written about it here. It is a real gem, and this project will offer extraordinary connectivity to residents of the Morgan Creek area into Merritt’s.

It will allow people in this neighborhood to bike all the way into Southern Village Market St, and as far south into Dogwood Acres. For more ambitious bike riders, it also offers easy reach into the Glenwood Shopping center area.

The town’s page explaining the project is here. It offers information about the possible alignments on a map and an opportunity to answer a survey.

A map of Merrit's Pasture with a section of the proposed extension

In the survey, there are three options: (Download the PDF map here)

  1. Option A (green) on the map, which works together with Option B and aligns itself primarily along 15-501. This route is the most bike commuter / destination based route.
  2. Option B, which is also the first part of A, and routes you quickly into Morgan Creek Road, Coker. This option is likely the most cost effective of the bunch. And despite using existing public roads is not bad for many cyclists. The road traffic on these back roads is very light, and lower speeds.
  3. Option C, which winds along the southern edge of Merritt’s and carefully follows Morgan Creek as it makes its way east. There are two sub options at the end, one that more quickly makes use of the existing, lightly traveled roads in the area.

These three options all meet very specific needs. Naturally, I have my thoughts.

My thought process for selecting Option B.

Option C is probably the quietest and most peaceful route, perhaps intended to give people in the area a non-car option to reach the Botanical Gardens. But it will depend on the ability of the town to purchase many individual lots of land to become possible.

This would make it the most expensive option, and probably the most time consuming option of the three. Since I am focused on more greenways, I fear selecting this option would take time, money and resources away from other greenways elsewhere in town. As such, I do not recommend it.

For me, Option A and B are not much different. I already ride though this section, and the main thing I want as a confident cyclist is a safe path to the intersection of Fordham and Morgan Creek Road. Currently this route is a white knuckler, as I share the hard shoulder on Fordham with fast moving cars merging and swerving. Once I reach the peaceful, calm streets of the Morgan Creek neighborhood, it’s smooth sailing.

I believe Option B gives me, all that I want. It is my personal choice.

Option A seems focused on a long term, side path like route along Fordham (15-501). Because it involves more frontage on Fordham, and with it, cooperation with NCDOT, it too, would take more time and money than option B (but still less than option C). I find myself in a bit of a dither on this. Since, elsewhere on 15-501, I was a strong advocate of a side path over an street network connection. I reconcile the difference by concluding that, if the town successfully continues to build more side paths in either direction, the missing link of option A could be built then.

So there you have it. I think, for the majority of cyclists who might use this , option B is the best choice. I think that A and B also provide residents of the Morgan Creek unprecedented bike connectivity to Southern Village, Dogwood Acres and South Creek, which is actually not really that far away.

Learn more about the Morgan Creek Greenway this upcoming week!

There are a few engagement sessions planned, both virtually and in-person. Here’s all of the information about them:

If you think you will be able to attend any of the sessions above, I suggest you wait until after to the survey, because you’ll be able to get any questions you have answered.

This project is an exciting development in the towns plans to create a greenway to greenway network. This project will connect to two separate existing greenways How cool is that?

The Morgan Creek entrance into Merrit's Pasture

John Rees lives in Chapel Hill. His day job is an enterprise architect for a big IT company. He was, until very recently, a member of the Chapel Hill Planning Commission and former chair. He serves on...