Ever since New Belgium Brewing announced that Haywood Road in West Asheville would be the primary truck route for its River Arts District facility, Joshua Martin has been organizing concerned neighbors into a new group — the East West Asheville Neighborhood Association. After several informal meetings, Facebook activity and small group meetings, Oct. 10 was the group’s first public meeting with Asheville city staff.
Nearly 120 residents filled the auditorium at Hall Fletcher School. Some have been active in other West Asheville neighborhood efforts before, but many of them were new to meetings with city staff. Most of them had heard of the meeting via the group’s Facebook page, but a fair number had been recruited to come by door-to-door visits.
From the city, assisting with the moderation, was Neighborhood Coordinator Marsha Stickford. Answering questions and listening to residents were Public Works Director Cathy Ball and Transportation Director Ken Putnam. The North Carolina Department of Transportation was invited and sent resident engineer, Chad Bandy. Engineers who did the initial assessments of traffic for New Belgium gave a shortened presentation of their work, including the criteria they used to determine Haywood Road as the primary truck route.
“DOT has two concerns about the route,” said Bandy. “One is the access to [Interstate] 240 at the Haywood interchange, and the second is Beecham’s Curve on Haywood Road.”
DOT has already announced plans to install and improve the latter intersection, located where Haywood takes a 90-degree turn at Beverly Road and Ridgelawn Road. “I feel that a circle would be a good solution there, but the topography and property issues do not allow us enough room for that,” said Bandy. “The lights should be a big improvement,” he added, noting that improvements should be completed by spring 2013. Currently, the intersection features a yield sign, two stop signs and no clear markings for how motorists should deal with intersection.
As for the Haywood and I-240 interchange, no properties are being considered for razing. “We are not going to tear down the pharmacy [B and B Pharmacy] or the [Asheville Pre-] school [Asheville Pre-School]. We will have to adjust the lights and make some more room for trucks to turn. These things can be done in the existing footprint,” said Bandy.
The light installation for Beecham’s Curve set off a flurry of questions about other streets being used more as cut-throughs. Howard Street, Waynesville Avenue and Westwood Place were all mentioned by residents and written on a flip sheet by Stickford. Residents are encouraged to send city staff other streets they believe would be impacted by the New Belgium project and thus should be reviewed in the master traffic impact plan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
“The traffic plan will include the whole neighborhood,” promised Putnam. “We really want people’s input here.”
Cathy Ball communicated to residents that the process started that night would be valuable to both city staff and residents. “We understand that you will be impacted by this project. I am concerned about the impact you will face during the construction phase too. I want you to know the city is your partner, and shares your concerns, and we will work to make these impacts easier,” said Ball.
The last speaker was local resident Jonathan Wainscott, who has been researching a plan to get trucks around the yellow Norfolk Southern bridge (which is too low and narrow for modern trucks) using a railroad siding. This plan will require cooperation from the railroad and some property acquisition, but would move trucks through a more industrial area and off the residential areas of Haywood Road. City officials promised to look into his idea, which would share a railroad siding along the cliffs below Hillcrest Apartments and bring trucks across the Craven Street bridge to the New Belgium property (see map below).