The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has assigned a consulting firm, AECOM, to conduct an “Express Design Study” of Merrimon Avenue. NCDOT, City of Asheville, and French Broad River MPO met with AECOM on Jan. 28, 2019, to kickoff this study. The study will look at the corridor from I-240 to the Beaver Lake area, a distance of about 2.3 miles.
The study is a first step toward evaluating options for improving Merrimon Avenue. Based on feedback from previous public meetings, the NCDOT will evaluate options that include reconfiguring the existing road to include bicycle lanes and/or improved sidewalks.
The study process takes about six to nine months and is expected to be complete in late summer. The study will provide a rough idea of the costs and impacts of each option. The City will work with the NCDOT to provide opportunities for additional public input once the results are available. The study does not include a detailed design or traffic analysis. Following the public input, a preferred option could be advanced for more detailed study.
The Merrimon Avenue corridor is a congested commuter route with a documented higher-than-normal crash rate and lacks adequate bicycle and pedestrian facilities. So safety for all modes of transportation is the driving factor for potential improvements.
Two intersection improvements that were scheduled for Merrimon Avenue have been put on hold by the NCDOT while the “Express Design Study” is being completed. The projects as designed would have widened the road and added a continuous center turn lane from south of WT Weaver Boulevard to north of Edgewood Road. The projects are listed in the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) as U-5781 and U-5782 .
The NCDOT held a public input meeting on potential 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 potential improvements, and were concerned about the insufficient proposed facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians. Following this input, the NCDOT and the City of Asheville determined to study other alternatives.
January 2019 – Begin Express Design Study
Fall 2019 – Gather Additional Public Input
Dan Baechtold, City of Asheville
Steve Cannon, North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)