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4/3 conversion of Merrimon Ave.? Petition saying ‘It’s horrible’ gains signatures galore
Thursday, 10 November 2022 22:09

From Staff Reports 

Thousands of people are signing an online petition against the ongoing 4/3 conversion of Merrimon Avenue in North Asheville.

Specifically, as of noon Nov. 6, more than 2,500 people had signed the petition titled, “Save Merrimon Ave. Before It’s Too Late,” as per the website, where the petition is located. 

The website noted that when the petition reaches 5,000 signatures, it “is more likely to get picked up by local news.”

The petition states: “It is already evident that this is creating backups, delays, safety issues, and driving more traffic onto residential streets, like Kimberly Ave.”

The Daily Planet — twice — emailed Mike Sule, executive director of the Asheville on Bikes club that has spearheaded the Merrimon project, for his response to the petition drive and other Merrimon project concerns, but he failed to respond by the newspaper’s mid-morning Nov. 7 deadline. 

Work began in October to convert Merrimon Avenue into a three-lane pattern from Midland Road (in the Beaver Lake area) to W.T. Boulevard, with one lane in each direction, a center turn lane and added bike lanes in each direction.

Meanwhile, Asheville television station WLOS (News 13) reported on Nov. 1 that it had contacted NCDOT, which directed News 13 to the City of Asheville for comment. 

News 13 noted that a city spokesperson provided the following statement:

“The City of Asheville recognizes concern among some community members as to the 4/3 transition (road diet) along U.S. 25 (Merrimon Avenue) between Midland Road and W.T. Weaver Blvd. In keeping with the city’s complete streets policy, the City of Asheville partnered with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to install this section as a part of their resurfacing project. Road diets can improve safety, lower speeds, provide better mobility and access for all road users, and enhance overall quality of life.

“Once the project is completed, the NCDOT and the City of Asheville will closely monitor the new section and meet on a regular basis to review and analyze the before and after conditions. During the construction phase, which is anticipated to be completed by the end of November, the City will update the project page here on a weekly basis.

“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 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

“Any questions that you might have regarding the actual road diet, please contact Ms. Jessica Morriss, who is the Assistant Transportation Department Director with the City of Asheville at (828) 232-4528 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

“The City of Asheville has created an online project page where weekly updates will be posted.” 

In a brief interview with the Daily Planet on Nov. 4, Frank Dosier, an Asheville native who owns and runs Musician’s Workshop on Merrimon Avenue, expressed his irritation with the narrowing of the street from four lanes to three lanes to accommodate bike lanes.

He began by lashing out at Sule, the Asheville on Bikes leader, who, Dosier said, “came here from Colorado, where they were ‘doing bikes’ and having great things going on. If he liked it so much, maybe he needs to go back to Colorado.

“I do know (the city’s) planning and zoning (board) for years was on this (bike lane) ‘mission.’ Multi-modal transportation is something that some of the people running for office” are advocating.

“However,” he noted, “after I went on WLOS (on Nov.1), the petition went through the roof, and was at 3,000 (signatures) yesterday.

The response to his comments televised on News 13 “has been good — and we’ve had a few inquiries,” Dosier told the Daily Planet.

Further critizing the Merrimon Avenue narrowing from four to three lanes to allow for the addition of bike lanes in each direction, Dosier — with a sigh — asked, rhetorically,“A three-lane Merrimon Avenue?” 

He then noted that NCDOT has counted “22,000 cars a day on Merrimon Avenue. If you drive Merrimon Avenue during rush hour, cars are backed up from one traffic light to the next. From Beaver Lake to the first traffic light” at Beaverdam Road,” it now takes 15 to 20 minutes, he lamented. 

“People are doing ridiculous things... like driving in the turn lanes... They’re putting down temporary striping,” until repaving starts, at which point he suspects that the traffic jams will get even worse.

Speaking again as a native, Dosier said, “We’ve never had traffic back up like this” on Merrimon Avenue.

Given that NCDOT officials say that, with some tweaks of the system, the traffic congestion will improve on Merrimon, has Dosier seen any improvement lately? the Daily Planet asked.

“No, none at all,” he replied, “I just came from Lakeview Park. They said it (the road narrowing) would add three minutes from one end to the other.”

However, Dosier said that, “during any rush hour, or lunch time, I’d say it takes” significantly longer. “It adds another 15 or 20 minutes.” He added that, on the positive side, during non-rush hour periods, “it (the three-laning) doesn’t affect it (traffic jams) too much.”

When there are major traffic jams, he added, “Tempers run short. People start cutting through side streets to get to Kimberly” and other access roads. 

“I heard there was a (city) bus driver really upset and they are supposed to put their handicapped ramp out, but not supposed” to extend it into the bike lanes, which leaves no options, Dosier said.

At that point, he noted that NCDOT and city officials had said that the main reason for the Merrimon project was “safety,” which he highly questioned is being achieved.

 Originally, “My understanding from the highway department is (that the project was) to restripe and repave” Merrimon, but the city stepped in and decided it wanted to narrow the street to allow for bike lanes.

He said the “budget included $300,000 to restripe — if this doesn’t work. The highway depatrtment would reanalyze the idea in six months” after the project is completed.

If the project is eventually scrapped, “They’d have to move (back) all the traffic lights and reprogram the traffic lights — and the (signaling) loops (buried) in the pavement will have to be dug up and moved to trigger traffic lights” properly. It’s lots of work and time,” Dosier said.

In general, he lamented, “They (city and NCDOT officials) are not listening to the public.”

“At the City Council meeting, where they voted for it, other than Sandra Kilgore, who said, ‘I don’t think we’ve had enough input from the citizens,’ they’d already made up their minds that this was going to happen.

“The mayor said at the end of the meeting that ‘Businesses on Merrimon Avenue were supportive of this.’ I don’t know of any business” on Merrimon that supports the three-laning project, Dosier said. “We (the area businesses) really didn’t think anybody was stupid enough to do this. Now everyone’s ‘excited’ (meaning upset).”

He added, “I don’t think anyone’s really pushing for people to sign up” on the current petition drive to stop the project, so he and his wife Becky are speaking out.

“The economy’s in horrible shape... I didn’t ask to get sucked into this. But everything’s on the table.”

As for bike lanes. he said, “When I was at the public meeting (on the project), it was a ‘free-for-all’ in late January. It was chaos, which, I think, was intentional. 

“Just outside the door (of the Merrimon public meeting) was the bike club (the AoB), giving out literature to support bike lanes. I told them I thought they were nuts.”

In a verbal jab at the bike club’s Sule and its intense involvement with the Merrimon project, Dosier said, “The guy who’s the leader of it (Sule) lives in West Asheville” — not North Asheville. Dosier noted that he would much prefer that Sule lobbied for bike lanes on West Asheville’s Patton Avenue and Haywood Road — and leave North Asheville alone.

On a related concern, Dosier said, “The first ‘urban village’ is supposed to be on Beaverdam (Road). People would be riding bicycles. Very bike-friendly. I say, ‘stop it. Stop this stuff.’ I don’t see the NCDOT giving a hoot about bicycles,” otherwise.

“I rarely see bikes on (nearby) Kimberly, which is a pleasant place to ride bikes,” in contrast to Merrimon’s congestion, in Dosier said in concluding the interview.


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