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The city’s Comprehensive Plan has a vision to make streets more walkable, comfortable, and connected. Similarly, NCDOT’s primary goal is to Make Transportation Safer. Unfortunately, Asheville has a poor track record when it comes to street safety as it continues to be listed in the top 10 North Carolina cities with high levels of crashes (2020 data, page 140).
In this context, Merrimon Avenue is a neighborhood connector and commuter route with a documented higher-than-normal crash rate that lacks adequate bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Safety for all modes of transportation is a key factor for potential changes.
At the City’s request, the two intersection projects that were proposed for Merrimon Avenue in 2018 were removed by the NCDOT. The projects as proposed would have widened Merrimon Avenue to five lanes by adding a continuous center turn lane from south of WT Weaver Boulevard to north of Edgewood Road. The projects were listed in the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) as U-5781 and U-5782.
The NCDOT held a public input meeting on the proposed intersection projects in January 2018. While a few members of the public expressed support for the proposals, a large number of those who attended the meeting and submitted comments in writing were opposed to the large scale of the proposed changes, and were concerned about the safety impacts and the insufficient facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians. Following this input, the NCDOT and the City of Asheville determined to study other alternatives.
As a result, the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) assigned a consulting firm, AECOM, to conduct an “Express Design Study” of Merrimon Avenue to review the possibility of changing the configuration of the corridor to better support city and state goals. NCDOT, the City of Asheville, and the French Broad River MPO met with AECOM on Jan. 28, 2019, to kickoff this study that reviewed the corridor from I-240 to the Beaver Lake area, a distance of about 2.3 miles.
Based on feedback from previous public meetings and discussions with city staff, the NCDOT evaluation reviewed the tradeoffs to maintaining vehicle throughput with safety and equity in mobility. The study took about six months to complete and included a conceptual design, a traffic capacity analysis, and a pedestrian and bicycle report.
The City began reviewing the study at the end of 2019. In 2020, the Covid pandemic led to a near halt to this project until early 2021. On March 24, 2021, the Multimodal Transportation Commission (MMTC) entered the conversation. It was decided that representatives from the MMTC would accompany city staff to further discuss the resurfacing opportunity. During the spring through the fall of 2021, MMTC and city staff met with NCDOT to review data, challenges, and opportunities. As a result of those meetings, NCDOT agreed to reschedule the resurfacing of Merrimon Avenue to give the City more time for these discussions. The resurfacing of Merrimon Avenue is currently slated for the summer of 2022.
January 2019 – Commencement of the Express Design Study
Summer 2019 – Merrimon Avenue Study documents are provided to the city
2020 – Covid challenges postpone the project
March 24, 2021 – MMTC discussion of Merrimon Avenue
Spring-Fall 2021 – City and Multimodal Transportation Commission discussions with North Carolina Department of Transportation
February 2022 – City held both an in-person open house and virtual public engagement the week of February 28 to allow the public to review the proposal in more detail, to understand potential impacts and associated data, to provide feedback, and to discuss the topic with staff from both the City and NCDOT.
March 22, 2022 @ 11:59 p.m. – Last day to complete the Merrimon Avenue Survey (please view the Story Map first). Results were shared publicly in April 2022, and can be viewed here.
May 24, 2022 – City Council votes to support the 4/3 conversion
Summer/Fall 2022 – Scheduled implementation of Merrimon Avenue resurfacing and 4/3 conversion implementation
11/4/2022: Milling along the road diet was completed on October, 28, 2022. NCDOT has made significant progress installing signal loops ahead of paving operations. NCDOT has made significant progress installing signal loops ahead of paving operations and will continue to work concurrently with paving activity where able.
11/1/2022: On October 10, 2022, NCDOT began work on Merrimon Avenue which included temporary striping to transition roadway users to the new 4-to-3 lane configuration. The reconfiguration, which is taking place between Midland Road and W.T. Weaver, is the first phase of the larger resurfacing of US 25.
10/18/2022: On October 10, 2022, NCDOT began work on Merrimon Avenue which included temporary striping to transition roadway users to the new 4-to-3 lane configuration. The reconfiguration, which is taking place between Midland Road and W.T. Weaver, is the first phase of the larger resurfacing of US 25.
The temporary striping will remain until the entire roadway is repaved, at which point the final striping will be installed, and the traffic signals will be re-timed to optimize traffic flow. At this time, the bike lanes have not yet been installed and will not be until the final restriping takes place. The milling for the 3-lane section is expected to begin around October 17, 2022 and the paving for the 3-lane section is expected to start the following week. All work for the 3-lane section with the exception of some curb ramp improvements is anticipated to be completed by the end of November.
6/1/2022: On May 24, 2022, the city’s transportation department director provided a presentation to the Asheville City Council, which voted in support of proposed changes to Merrimon Avenue that will implement a 4/3 lane conversion between WT Weaver Boulevard and Midland Road.
1/25/2022:The City of Asheville is reviewing a proposal to reconfigure Merrimon Avenue as part of the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) upcoming resurfacing of the corridor. The consideration under review is whether to implement a four-lane to three-lane conversion in order to improve safety for all users and to support equitable mobility.
The area under consideration for public feedback is between I-240 and Midland Road. Whereas the configuration of the corridor is currently two moving lanes in each direction, the four- to three-lane conversion would change the street so that there would be only one moving lane in each direction with a continuous center turn lane, and bicycle lanes on each side. It would look similar to the recently updated Charlotte Street, north of I-240.
Any questions that you might have regarding the construction activities, please contact Mr. Joseph Lawrence, who is the Resident Engineer with the NCDOT at (828) 298-0080 or email@example.com.
Any questions that you might have regarding the road diet, please contact Ms. Jessica Morriss, who is the Assistant Transportation Department Director with the City of Asheville at (828) 232-4528 or firstname.lastname@example.org.