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Merrimon Widening Comment

Jim: As presented, this project is deeply flawed in multiple respects, and I request that the current proposal be discarded

From: Jim Grode
Date: Mon, Jan 29, 2018 at 12:27 PM
Subject: Comment regarding Merrimon Ave. Widening, Project U-5781 & U-5782
To: kbereis@hntb.com

Dear Ms. Bereis,

Attached are my comments regarding the Merrimon Ave. widening project. I appreciate the opportunity to provide these comments and ask that they be placed in the public record.

Sincerely,
Jim Grode

Re: Merrimon Ave. Widening, Project U-5781 & U-5782

Dear Ms. Bereis: I am very concerned about NCDOT’s proposed widening of Merrimon Avenue. As presented, this project is deeply flawed in multiple respects, and I request that the current proposal be discarded and the process restarted to enable the development of an appropriate project.

First and foremost, NCDOT’s process for developing its proposal is completely unacceptable. NCDOT’s mission is not simply to devise ways to move motor vehicles from place to place as fast as technically possible. Its mission is to provide transportation solutions to serve the public welfare. By failing to consult with the City of Asheville and the affected community, by failing to consider the City’s relevant planning documents, and by failing to involve the public in a meaningful way at a meaningful time, NCDOT has utterly failed at its mission. No better evidence of this problem is needed than the fact that Asheville City Council first learned of the proposal from the newspaper. For this reason alone, even if the proposal were substantively perfect, it would be problematic.

However, the proposal is far from substantively perfect. In fact, it completely ignores safety considerations, accepted design standards, NCDOT’s own Complete Streets policy, and the urban fabric in which Merrimon Avenue sits, all to further the goal of moving many cars fast.

The proposed 2-foot “shared bicycle lane” is a prime example of this problem. No existing design standard supports this concept, and it is, on its face, plainly unsafe for both cyclists and motorists. Likewise, the lack of a safe and continuous crossing for the Glenn’s Creek Greenway and the restriction of access to Norwood Park (specifically Woodward Ave.) show a failure to consider any needs other than those of through-traffic motor vehicles. There are many other problematic aspects of the proposed design, but these should suffice to show that as currently presented, the project is unacceptable.

When redesigning this project, NCDOT should involve the City of Asheville, the corridor community and the public early and in a meaningful way, including full consideration of city planning documents including but not limited to the Asheville in Motion plan, Comprehensive Plan, Greenway Master Plan, and Bicycle Master Plan.

Above all, NCDOT must remember that Merrimon Ave. is not simply an artery to quickly move cars from downtown Asheville to Weaverville and points beyond. Indeed, in its current environmental context, it is singularly unsuited for that purpose and no amount of widening will change that. Instead, it is a vital component of the city of Asheville’s economic, cultural and recreational fabric. To be successful, any new proposed project must embrace those aspects as fully as it embraces the transportation function.

Thank you for this opportunity to provide comments on the proposed widening.

Sincerely, /s/ Jim Grode