City Council will consider proposed changes along major streets in the area
ASHEVILLE – Removal of lanes reserved for cars to make room for cyclists and pedestrians, roundabouts, central median, as many proposals for modifications along the main roads which will be examined by the City Council.
Three corridor studies will go to council on November 8 for a vote on the adoption of the Asheville in Motion mobility plan: Hendersonville Road, Tunnel Road and Biltmore Avenue / McDowell Street.
The push behind the potential changes is to make it safer for people using bikes and walking along roads with many of the region’s important businesses and services, said Tristan Winkler, director of the French Metropolitan Planning Organization, which has conducted two studies. (Planners managed Biltmore / McDowell.)
“The city plans to have better multimodal north-south connectivity, and these are essential routes to achieving that,” Winkler said at a meeting of the Independent Business Owners Council on Nov. 5.
Much of the impetus for the studies came from criticism that more multimodal infrastructure would mean more congestion for motorists, Winkler said in an interview with the Citizen Times after the meeting.
Studies show how “multimodal view” can occur with “acceptable amounts of congestion impact”, with bike lanes and sidewalks even helping to reduce congestion by getting people out of cars, he said. .
The studies each have three alternatives, including no changes. The costs are very rough estimates due to the time to potential construction, Winkler said. The cost would be borne by the federal government, states and local governments. Here are some suggestions:
Proposal: $ 22.7 million for 5.4 miles from Rock Hill Road in the north to Sweeten Creek Road in the south. More than 11,000 inhabitants in the area.
The South Asheville corridor containing a population the size of Hendersonville has seen “a ton of changes, a lot of growth over the past two decades,” Winkler said. This was accompanied by problems, such as 40,000 vehicles per day near the Blue Ridge Parkway intersection and an accident rate 1 1/2 times higher than similar highways in the state.
From 2014 to 2018, there were 1,438 motor vehicle accidents along the corridor, including five fatalities and eight disabling injuries, according to the study. From 2007 to 2018, there were 64 accidents involving pedestrians and nine involving cyclists. Three pedestrians died and nine sustained disabling injuries.
Among the most recent bicycle wrecks was the fatal hit and run on September 26 of cyclist Joe Marsh, who was returning home from work.
A first “high-concept” plan foresees wider sidewalks and a cycle path as well as the elimination of the central turning lane. In its place would go a central median of almost 18 feet.
“The main reason for this is that studies have repeatedly shown that medians and access management reduce deaths and injuries by 25-31%. This is called a proven security countermeasure.” , Winkler said.
Lots of pauses in the median would allow for left turns.
During the public hearings, planners also heard appeals at reduced speeds.
Another problem is the lack of road connections, which means there are few or no places to exit this section of the road. The addition of connecting roads is a longer term recommendation that would form part of several projects.
Proposal: In East Asheville, 1.75 miles from the Beaucatcher Tunnel in the west to Swannanoa River Road in the east. Many job sites.
A distinct difference with Hendersonville Road is that traffic volumes have decreased on Tunnel Road.
“A big reason why we believe is that there are a number of vacant properties along this hallway, meaning it could be a hallway that could be ripe for more redevelopment. “said Winkler.
A “road regime” would eliminate car lanes from Chunns Cove to South Tunnel Road, reducing accidents and making more room for people on foot or by bicycle, he said.
Intersections would be improved with better timing of lighting, roundabouts or other measures.
Longer-term recommendations include the creation of formal link roads where many now exist informally, connecting shopping areas and hotels.
Biltmore / McDowell
Proposal: Just south of downtown Asheville, 2.1 miles from Hillard Avenue at All Souls Crescent.
Some parts of the roads have low “level of service” ratings. The lower, “F,” stands for traffic jams or “stop-and-go” conditions, and is “very, very bad for congestion,” Winkler said:
- Hendersonville Road to All Souls Crescent and Vanderbilt Road (F)
- All Souls Crescent at Lodge Street / McDowell Street (E)
- Hendersonville Road / Biltmore Avenue to Swannanoa River Road (F)
- Biltmore Avenue to Meadow Road / Bryson Street (E)
- Biltmore Avenue to Caledonia Road (E)
The study proposes improvements at intersections and the reduction of three lanes of traffic for cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. These lanes would change, depending on the problems in different areas, with two northbound lanes in some areas and two southbound lanes in others.
The studies are preliminary and aim to gain public input and buy-in at an early stage, Winkler said. The hope is that this would prevent the backsliding of residents who, on other projects, have reached the final stages of design and construction and have resulted in cost increases and delays.
Due to funding issues from the state Department of Transportation, such proposals are likely a decade away, Winkler said, though accident issues on Hendersonville Road and “F” service levels on Biltmore / McDowell , “Would make these projects very, very competitive. “
Joel Burgess has lived at WNC for over 20 years, covering politics, government and other news. He has written award-winning stories on topics ranging from gerrymandering to police use of force. Help us support this type of journalism by subscribing to the Citizen Times.