Durham Loop Limiting Growth of Downtown Area, Some Say

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DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — About a dozen Durham business owners, as well as some community members, are fighting to get the city safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Their goal is to make Durham’s Downtown Loop a two-way street.

“There are people like me who love to bike and walk, but we can see it’s not for everyone because he loop is this major psychological barrier factor,” said Jessalee Landfried.

Landfried lives right outside of the downtown area, but says it’s intimidating trying to get into town without a car.

And business owners say this is hurting them and the city from growing.

“Downtown is a tiny little pocket cut off by the loop,” said Nick Hawthorne-Johnson.

Hawthorne-Johnson is part owner of Ponysaurus, as well as several other businesses in Durham.

He’s has invested in the city, but is worried the loop will keep others from doing the same thing

“If we could jump the loop and develop around it, we would actually increase the size of downtown,” said Hawthorne-Johnson.

About two dozen businesses in Durham are fighting to get the loop turned into a two-way street.

The problem, business owners and residents say, is as a one-way street cars move too fast along the loop.

This issue is something the city has considered.

“There is a desire for it (changing the loop), but it’s an expensive project and there are other priorities within the city,” said Ellen Beckmann, a senior transportation planner for Durham.

In 2010, the city of Durham completed a study check the feasibility of turning the loop into a two-way street. They discovered it would work, however the project has not moved much since then.

Beckmann says the cost associated with the project ranges from $12 to $25 million — a cost the city isn’t willing to invest in right now. Beckmann says the city is looking into federal and state grant money which may be available to help fund the project.

Beckmann says the city is looking into federal and state grant money which may be available to help fund the project.

However, it will take years to see if the city is eligible for those dollars.

Business owners like Hawthorne-Johnson says he doesn’t expect the city to invest in the project wholly, but he would like to see some movement towards making it a reality, especially since it’s sat stagnant for seven years.

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