Input Sought On N.C. 280 Bike Path

 

July 10, 2017



Public input concerning the proposed N.C. 280 bike path is now open. The proposed roughly 15-mile path, which is still in the planning stages, would stretch from Sierra Nevada Brewery to Pisgah Forest along the N.C. 280 corridor.

Mark Burrows, the county’s planning and community development director, oversaw a public information meeting recently at the county recreation department.

Burrows and his staff mailed postcards about the path and meetings to about 300 homes along the corridor.

Estimated costs for the project hover around $8 million, but over time prices could go up. Costs are estimated at $500,000 per mile.

According to Burrows, the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) would pay for roughly 80 percent of the project, while local government bodies would be responsible for covering the rest of construction and maintenance costs.

Burrows said that Transylvania commissioners want public input, which he plans to present to commissioners at a later date.

“We’ll look at the comments, get guidance and then look for ways to move forward,” he said. “It may not move forward. Either way, we are looking at seven to 10 years before anything happens on the ground.”

At the meeting, Shawn Fisher and Rhonda Douthat, members of the Boylston Baptist Church near the Transylvania/Henderson county line, raised concerns about controlling what happens on the greenway space near their church.

“We’re worried people will stop to picnic and drink wine and beer on our property,” said Douthat. “We have certain standards and beliefs. We don’t want just anyone on our property. You’d be surprised how many beer cans we pick up out of the parking lot.”

Fisher also said he was concerned that the county wasn’t doing anything to attract industry to Transylvania County, and that surrounding counties were jumping on opportunities, but Transylvania was not.

Burrows responded, noting other counties’ adjacent access to the interstate and their water and sewer connections.

Burrows said that commissioners, if they backed the project, would likely look to fund the project without using taxpayer money.

He mentioned that Greenville Health Systems had donated more than $1 million over a 10-year period for the Swamp Rabbit trail, the 28-mile rail-to-trail conversion that connects Travelers Rest with Greenville in South Carolina.

Vicki Eastland, with the Land of Sky Regional Planning Office, said the concept came up in 2013 when the town of Mills River reached out to the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization for a feasibility study to be conducted along N.C. 280 about a multi-use path. The Land of Sky Regional Council is a “big picture” organization focused on transportation and infrastructure needs 30 years out.

Eastland said that the Land of Sky was able to supply funds to extend the study to Pisgah Forest, and that business owners and homeowners along the corridor have said it would be great if they could walk or ride a bike to work.

“The study was conducted in late 2013 and the town of Mills River passed a resolution in support of the project,” she said. “Transylvania County commissioners requested a plan later that year. From that point on it has been a good idea that people are exploring.

“With all of the development along 280, those folks are looking for alternative ways to get to work. This trail, while it does have lots of transportation and commuter potential, it has a ton of economic development potential for the region. Any trail with the length to it, adds to the potential for businesses to pop up along the way. Just look at the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville and what it has done for Traveler’s Rest. Active transportation and recreation brings with it investment in economic opportunities.”

The path is part of the 2013 Blue Ridge Bike Plan, a feasibility study prioritizing bicycle corridors in the region.

The plan encompassed Transylvania, Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Madison and Swain counties.

A 2013 DOT study categorized cyclists into four different categories.

One percent of cyclists fit the “strong and fearless” category.

These cyclists will typically ride anywhere regardless of roadways or weather. Another 5 to 10 percent of cyclists fit in the “enthused and confident” category.

They may deviate from direct routes, according to the study.

Sixty percent of cyclists are “interested but concerned,” and only ride on low traffic count streets.

Thirty percent of the population are lumped in to the “no way, no how” category and are not considered cyclists. The study shows that most of the folks in this category will never ride a bicycle under any circumstance.

Under North Carolina law, bicycles are considered vehicles and are expected to follow the rules of the road.

Bicycles are not prohibited from riding on the sidewalks under North Carolina law, according to the Blue Ridge Bike Plan. The study notes that in many cases riding on the sidewalk is the safest alternative.

The majority of the respondents wanted to see more paved shoulders for cyclists, and additional off-road multi-use paths that accommodate both cyclists and pedestrians.

Upcoming public input meetings include Aug. 9 from 4 - 7 p.m. at Mills River Town Hall, and on Aug. 17 from 1 - 4 p.m. at the Mills River Fire Substation. Input concerning the trail may be emailed to mark.burrows@transylvaniacounty.org.

 
 

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