With the completion of a sidewalk connection project on Short Michigan Avenue this week, the Engineering Services and Street divisions of the City of Asheville’s Public Works Department finished work on a menu of street, pedestrian and bicycle access improvements funded by grants through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The grant-funded improvements not only provided work for private contractors, but also allowed for the completion of enhancement projects that were priorities for the City of Asheville like new bike lanes, connecting sidewalk routes and repaving roads. The funding had an additional local economic impact on area business, as area contractors were able to provide the lowest responsive, responsible bid on all projects
Begun in the Spring of 2010, each project contains multiple enhancements, most of which are highlighted in the city’s pedestrian and bicycle master plans. Stimulus funding grants were awarded based on an application process, with federal funds for sidewalk and street projects appropriated by the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration and distributed through the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization. Each project was supported by a vote by Asheville City Council.
City of Asheville Engineering Services Manager Greg Shuler said once funding opportunities were announced, city staff rallied to navigate the procedures laid out in the ARRA grant application identify suitable projects and identify likely candidates for stimulus funds.
“The magic words here were ‘shovel ready,’” Shuler said. “We needed projects we could act quickly on.”
That effort was aided by existing master plans which show priorities and plans based on public input processes and council support. “We used master plans as much as possible to best identify projects that would work,” Shuler said. “This is is an example of why it is so beneficial to have plans put down on paper, so when funding comes together, you are ready to jump.”
Below are the ARRA funded sidewalk and street improvements performed by the City of Asheville’s Public Works Department:
• Coxe Avenue/South Slope bike resurfacing and bike lanes: Crews milled up old asphalt the entire length of Coxe Avenue and resurfaced including drainage upgrades. Bike lanes were painted on Coxe Avenue as well as Martin Luther King Drive, Asheland Avenue, and Hilliard Avenue. “The addition of bike lanes was just huge there,” Shuler said.”
• Kimberly Avenue resurfacing and uphill bike climbing lane: “We were very proud of that project,” Shuler said. “That road needed repaving in the worst way, and we were able to do a good resurfacing and improve our bicycle infrastructure.”
• Downtown Streetscapes: Landscaping and plantings on the median and islands on College Street.
• Fairview Road traffic signals in Oakley: Signals improve vehicular flow in a congested area while improving pedestrian safety in a busy school zone. “We’re really proud of our inspectors and engineers who worked on this one,” Shuler said.
• Closing sidewalk gaps: Dramatically improving pedestrian access can be achieved by linking existing stretches of sidewalks that previously were separated by gaps. Such links were made on Hendersonville Road, Chocktaw Street, Depot Street, Short Michigan Avenue, Evelyn Place, Hillard Avenue and Linden Street.
Street and sidewalk projects were not the only City of Asheville Initiatives funded by the ARRA. Other initiatives include homeless prevention, justice assistance grants, energy efficiency upgrades and the recently approved up-fitting of LED street lights. To see more information on Asheville’s use of ARRA funding, click here.