Fifty years ago, when the big bridge connecting Haywood Road in West Asheville with Clingman Avenue and downtown was planned, there was a problem.
Park Avenue and a steep slope were in the right of way. The North Carolina Department of Transportation acquired the houses, land and street. DOT crews cut through the hill, making the now-familiar Clingman Avenue corridor and creating easy access to downtown and West Asheville.
Park Avenue’s remnants still exist up and down the old hill; its most obvious feature is a huge pipe that drains the top of Chicken Hill into a collector box near the Clingman Avenue bus stop. From there, the conduit goes under Roberts Street to the river. Over the past several years, the pipe has gone from being barely visible to being completely exposed. It now rests several feet above ground, with no support.
A view from the top of the drainage pipe shows the extent of the sediment runoff.
“We really can’t fix it at this point,” says NC DOT representative Chad Bandy. “The plan right now is to replace the pipe, which is at the end of its service life, as soon as we can. Longer range, we are working with Asheville City Public Works to reduce the water flow off city streets into the pipe at the top. A catchment basin and replacing the concrete [gutters on Park Avenue] with grass will help a lot.”
Jolene Mechanic, owner of Phil Mechanic Studios across Roberts Street, can’t wait. “I was told [by someone at DOT] that my parking lot was ‘collateral damage’ awhile back.” She continues, “This pipe has been an issue for me and my parking for a long time. … I have classes for children, and working artists in this building. Parking is challenging normally. Now I have only half a lot. It makes it tough.”
“The city is committed to assisting the NCDOT to make the road safe for all modes of transportation,” says Public Works Director Cathy Ball. “Hopefully, the storm drainage pipe will be repaired so that this will not occur again.”
The city and state have been running street sweepers to keep the circle free of mud and debris. The daily rain events keep them busy.
Meanwhile, the temporary fix that NC DOT put up after last week’s torrential rain — a plastic silt fence, rock rip-rap and straw bales — has been filled with sediment over the plastic, to the top of the rocks, and the high water flow has scattered the bales.
While the sky raged with fantastic pinks at sunset on July 16, a yellow NC DOT street sweeper did laps around the traffic circle while the brown-red mud settled in among the rocks. Rain remains in the forecast.