Meeker plans to keep Raleigh moving ahead in 2010
Posted January 1, 2010 4:58 p.m. EST
Updated January 1, 2010 6:25 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — High-speed rail, a new public safety center and making the long-planned regional park on the Dorothea Dix Hospital campus a reality are among Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker's goals for 2010.
"I'm an optimist, and I think this year's going to be a much better year than 2009," Meeker said Friday. "I'm looking forward to a great 2010."
Last year saw unemployment in Wake County hit 8.5 percent as the region and the state struggled with the continuing recession. Meeker said he expects the economy to improve in the coming months.
"I think things ought to turn around fairly soon in the spring, and by the summer, I hope we're rolling again," he said.
The slow economy has delayed construction of the $226 million Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center downtown, and he said he hopes to see work get started this year. He said he also looks forward to securing federal funding for high-speed rail through Raleigh.
"The (high-speed) passenger rail is really the technology of the future," he said.
Meeker said he'd like to see improvements to Wake County's public transportation and school systems and would finally like to get a shot at transforming the Dorothea Dix property into a destination park.
The state is slowly moving patients from the aging mental hospital on the Dix site, but officials have repeatedly delayed closing the facility altogether. Raleigh officials have offered to buy the 306-acre property from the state for $10.5 million in hopes of creating a Central Park-type attraction just south of downtown.
Meeker refuted criticism that he pays too much attention on Raleigh's downtown and not enough parts of the city outside the Interstate 440 Beltline.
"The great majority of what the city does, of course, is way outside the Beltline," he said. "For example, the Falls of Neuse Road widening (and) extension is the biggest road project that we've ever undertaken – $30 million – and, of course, it's way outside the Beltline."
He said his primary goal is to keep Raleigh among the best places to live in the nation.
"In many ways, it's harder to stay on top than it is to get on top. We've been recognized, but we've really got to keep moving forward to retain those ratings," he said.