Merrimon Avenue Considerations

merrimon avenue traffic intersection

 


Happening Now

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 project. 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. Changes under consideration could affect the part of Merrimon Avenue 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. 

merrimon avenue existing conditions merrimon avenue proposed travel lanes

The City is proposing to hold both an in-person open house and virtual public engagement the week of February 28th 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.  

In-person Open House:

Monday, February 28, 2022

North Asheville Community Center, 37 E. Larchmont Rd, Asheville, NC 28804

5 – 8 p.m.   


Background

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 throughout 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 when the City began discussing with the NCDOT about the upcoming resurfacing of Merrimon Avenue to determine if road reconfiguration could take place as part of NCDOT’s regular road maintenance.

On March 24, 2021, the Multimodal Transportation Commission (MMTC) began discussions about the upcoming resurfacing of Merrimon Avenue. It was decided that representatives from the MMTC would accompany city staff to further discuss the resurfacing opportunity with NCDOT. During the spring through the fall of 2021, MMTC and city staff met with NCDOT various times to review data, challenges, and opportunities. As a result of those negotiations, 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.


Timeline

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 28, 2022 – Proposed Merrimon Avenue Open House


Supporting Documents

Merrimon Avenue Report and Resolution – 2/18/2018

Merrimon Avenue Letter to NCDOT – 10/18/2018

Original Express Design Conceptual Plans – 7/30/2019

Merrimon Avenue Traffic Capacity Analysis – 7/8/2021

Merrimon Avenue Pedestrian Report

Merrimon Avenue Bicycle Level of Service – 8/20/2021

Merrimon Avenue existing conditions cross section – 1/2022

Merrimon Avenue consideration: three-lane section with bike lanes – 1/2022

 


Contact Information

Vaidila Satvika, AICP
City of Asheville
828-251-4036

Steve Cannon, North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)
828-250-3000


Updated 01/26/2022


 

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