The Transylvania Times -

Major Changes Proposed For 280

 

May 21, 2018

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Access management improvements along the Asheville Highway from Fortune Cove Road to North Caldwell Street in Brevard could include three new roundabouts.

On Thursday, the public got the chance to provide input on the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) proposal.

The two-lane roundabouts are proposed (see map on page 13A) at the intersection of Pisgah Heights, Osborne Road and Chestnut Street.

In addition to the roundabouts, 5-feet-wide bike lanes, 13-feet multi-use paths, and a 17-feet by 6-inch-wide median have been proposed as amenities to the four-lane highway.

"The Asheville Highway management project is intended to reduce conflicts and improve safety," said Brevard City Planning Director Daniel Cobb. "This is important because a lot of the times when you hear of a road project, the assumption is that it is trying to get more vehicles through a given piece of geography, and that's not always the case. This is to make that corridor safer."

Cobb said that a traffic study revealed the crash rate on the corridor is 40 percent higher than the rest of the county and 20 percent higher than the state average.

"The access management project and the purpose of it is to increase safety and reduce congestion, and the way that they are going to do that is remove the center left turn lane, or what they call the two-way left turn lane," Cobb said. "It's that free-flow left turn lane they would replace with a physical separation, so there will be a median in the road just like on the North end of Asheville Highway when you pass Food Matters.

"The other point of the project is to provide safer mobility for people on bikes and people on foot, so the highway will have traffic going each direction with bike lanes on both sides of the road, and sidewalks."

Traffic studies show that roundabouts keep traffic flowing, instead of stopping and going, the result of which creates congestion.

David Uchiyama, DOT communications director, said traditional four-way intersections have 32 possible impact points in which one car can collide with another.

"In a roundabout, there are only eight, so they offer greater benefits in terms of safety," he said. "The other thing roundabouts do is keep traffic moving instead of stopping and starting. Then, you have people running to beat the light, and from that we have our T-bone crashes and head-on collisions, which are more serious than fender benders and sideswipes, which can take place at roundabouts."

Uchiyama said that roundabouts, because they are new, can cause hesitation among people, which is why the DOT held the public meeting, so that they could educate and clear up misconceptions.

Right-of-way acquisition for the project is scheduled for 2022, and construction would begin in 2024. Prior year costs are $250,000, while right of way and utilities are $5,600,000, and construction is estimated at $10,600,000.

Questions and comments should be submitted before or on June 1 to DOT Division 14 Design Construction Engineer J. Scott Miller via email at [email protected], or call (828) 586-2141.

Public Comments

Ernie Hodson, a Deer Lake resident, said roundabouts were common where he grew up in England.

"I do believe they will improve traffic flow better than traffic lights, and they are becoming more popular," he said. "I do believe, however, that there is a flaw in the plan presented at the DOT meeting. Deer Lake is one of the larger residential areas in the county. At the present time, most traffic coming out of Deer Lake has to wait for the traffic lights to allow even a right turn.

"With roundabouts, planned traffic will be faster and more continuous as it passes Deer Lake Road. There will be no left turn with the proposed plan. Deer Lake traffic will have to turn right, get over at least one lane in a very short distance to go around the roundabout at Chestnut and go in the opposite direction. I do believe that a safer arrangement would be to keep the traffic light at Osborne Road, which would allow traffic emerging from Deer Lake to have clear access.

"Deer Lake with the current plan is the only place treated with little thought."

However, Hodson said, roundabouts are coming.

"Let's not be afraid of them," he said. "It will take time to get used to them, but they are safe."

John Brown, also from Deer Lake, said the project looks interesting.

"We are always concerned if anything affects the intersection of Deer Lake Road and U.S. 64 because that's our only entrance and exit of Deer Lake, even for emergency vehicles."

He said the project appears to address several concerns the Transportation Advisory Committee has raised about moving traffic down U.S. 64 with fewer lights that stop traffic.

"Right now, I don't see any major negatives," Brown said.

Ken Walend said the area in front of Ingles market is more pressing, but is not addressed in the plan.

"A bridge over Fisher Road could at least solve this, and it's practical because the road is elevated above the Ingles' parking lot," Walend said. "Southbound U.S. 64/276 traffic could turn left into Ingles under the bridge. Reversing the lanes under the bridge would facilitate continuous flow, like the double diamond at the Asheville Airport. Closing the left turn out of Ingles at McLean Road would force traffic to exit under the bridge."

Khoi Le said he's still trying to "absorb" the plan, but he said he thinks it's overall a good plan.

"I'm a cyclist, so I'm concerned about crashing, and I live in Deer Lake, so I'm concerned about losing the traffic light," Le said. "Now we are going to have to quickly go and merge onto the roundabout going from the right and merge to the left going the other way, so it's just hard because I need to experience that to know what it will be like."

Tim and Betsy Robinson said they think it "appears to be a good idea."

"If you want to go North, then turning left is a problem, and I think the new arrangement could alleviate the problem," Tim said.

"We had some concerns because we are right there where the traffic circles are and getting out of Deer Lake is not easy going north," Betsy said.

Larry and Mae Clayton said that, from what they have seen of the project, they think it could help traffic flow.

They said they liked the idea of having a sidewalk and a bike lane.

"We came here on the behalf of the St. Timothy's Church Cemetery Committee to find out if the Oak Grove cemetery would be touched, but as it turns out it won't, so that's good," Larry said.

Mae said, as a walker, she likes the idea of being able to have more access to walking in that area.

"After looking at the plan, it looks like there will be more places to walk, with more space in general, and anything that could relieve the traffic congestion in that area and make it safer is a positive," she said.

 
 

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