The City of Asheville has secured grant funding that will allow for the installation of crossing signals at four high-traffic intersections that connect pedestrian commuters with transit and business centers. The Federal Transit Administration grant, secured through the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization, will fund the majority of the cost for pedestrian signals at the intersections of Haywood Road and Louisiana Avenue, Clingman Avenue and Hilliard Avenue, Choctaw Street and McDowell Road, and Biltmore Avenue and Southside/South Charlotte Street.
At its September 28 meeting, Asheville City Council approved an agreement with the N.C. Department of Transportation to perform the work and a 20 percent in-kind match for the grant.
“This is a big win,” says City of Asheville Transportation Planner Barb Mee. “Working together with the MPO and NC DOT, we were able to fund pedestrian infrastructure at some important intersections that were identified in the Asheville Pedestrian Plan.”
The four sites were selected based on their connectivity to transit stops, access to workplaces and the challenges posed by vehicle traffic to pedestrians, criteria spelled out in the FTA Job Access and Reverse Commute (JARC) grant application process.
For instance, Mee notes, the Clingman/Hilliard crossing will give residents in the West End/Clingman neighborhood easier access to downtown, while the Choctaw Street signal will allow better access to Mission Hospital, a major employer in the city. The Biltmore Avenue crossing is one that has been identified as a priority by the Asheville Bicycle and Pedestrian Task Force, a group of volunteers who examine ways to improve access in the city.
“We have a long list of places where we would like to see pedestrian crossings,” Mee said. “But coordinating with the N.C. DOT, and working within the grant requirements we were able to identify these as priorities that we could get done.”
JARC funding is typically allocated by the FTA to create opportunities that transport people to workplaces. In its application for the JARC funding, the City of Asheville pointed out the importance of pedestrian crossings to people who rely on transit to get to their jobs. That connection won the support of the FTA, which cited the city as an example of creativity and innovation in its use of the funding.
The N.C. DOT will perform the design and installation of the crosswalks and signals while the City of Asheville will make sure adjacent sidewalks conform to current ADA regulations.
Transportation Planning Manager Mariate Echeverry highlights the ability of the locations to extend the walkability and connectivity of those areas of Asheville.
“It is important for us to pursue these pedestrian linkages so that you don’t have fragmented sections of sidewalk with no easy way to leave them,” Echeverry says.
A timeline on installation of the signals is currently being developed, Mee says, as city transportation and engineering officials meet with N.C. DOT representatives to determine next steps.