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Paying for Crabtree Valley traffic plan questioned

The City Council approved hiring a consultant to study traffic near Crabtree Valley Mall and devise long-range strategies for unclogging the area.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Some people are questioning the city's decision to hire a consultant to study traffic near Crabtree Valley Mall and devise long-range strategies for unclogging streets in the area.

The City Council on Tuesday approved spending about $250,000 on the study, which will include input from residents and merchants in the area.

"Every time you turn around, it's a consultant," said Michael Sanera, research director and local government analyst for the conservative John Locke Foundation. "With a large planning department, it seems like some of this stuff could be done in-house and save the taxpayers some money."

Raleigh Planning Director Mitchell Silver said it's not uncommon for the city to outsource such studies, saying a consultant can do the job faster than city staff, who are busy working on other projects.

"I think here the desire was to get this done this fiscal year – (or) by December 2009 – and to do that, you have to outsource it," Silver said.

The City Council recently decided to remove a proposed $30 million Crabtree Valley Avenue Extension, between Glenwood Avenue and Creedmoor Road, from the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Silver said a new plan could provide better options.

"It's very detailed – (involving) a lot of modeling – and may require some flyovers or additions to the (Interstate 440) Beltline. That's a little bit beyond some of the expertise we have in-house," he said.

Traffic along the Glenwood Avenue corridor is expected to grow by as much as 70 percent by 2035, which makes solving congestion issues critical for Raleigh's future, Mayor Charles Meeker said.

"It's a very difficult place. There's only one way under the Beltline. There's a lot of through traffic, as well as a lot of destination traffic to Crabtree Valley (Mall)," Meeker said. "It's just a mess."

The money for the study is already in the city budget and wasn't taken from any other projects, he said.


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