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Amid uproar, city responds with ‘Merrimon Avenue considerations’
Saturday, 26 November 2022 15:17

From Staff Reports

As a veritable firestorm of public anger continues to be vented toward city officials over the narrowing of a 1.5-mile stretch of Merrimon Avenue (from W.T. Weaver Boulevard to Midland Drive at Beaver Lake) from four to three lanes to allow for the addition of bicycle lanes on each side, the City of Asheville issued the following press release titled “Merrimon Avenue Considerations,” dated Nov. 10:

“Paving along Merrimon Avenue started Monday, November 7, and will continue until the “Road Diet” section is complete.  The forecasted rain on Thursday, November 10, and Friday, November 11, as well as, impending cold weather the following week will have an impact on the paving schedule. Paving cannot continue during rain events or when temperature fall below 35 degrees. 

 “This does not mean that paving operations will stop for the winter, but rather that the paving window will be shorter. The contractor has committed to completing the ‘road diet’ section this year. Curb ramp upgrades and signal loop/timing work will continue during this time frame.

 “Proposal Purpose: Improving safety and supporting equitable mobility for those traveling, living, working, and visiting Merrimon Avenue. A four-lane to three-lane conversion has been demonstrated to slow vehicle speeds and reduce crashes. 

“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).

“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 W.T. 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. 

What’s more, the city’s Nov. 10 press release on Merrimon Avenue, stated:

“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.”

The release then noted the following timeline for the Merrimon Avenue project:

“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”

The press release ended with noting contact information for those with concerns about the Merrimon Avenue project as follows:

“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 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 .


 



 


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