Council targets Tunnel Road for pilot corridor study

Tunnel Road corridor map
LOVE OF TUNNEL: City Council prioritized Tunnel Road in East Asheville over Patton Avenue in West Asheville for a corridor study largely funded by the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization. Screen capture from the City of Asheville

Anticipating big changes to come in East Asheville, City Council unanimously OK’d a two-year corridor study of Tunnel Road at its regular meeting on Sept. 25. As explained by Vaidila Satvika, a city urban planner, the study will help lay the groundwork for Asheville’s transformation into a more transit-supportive city.

Satvika said the study would center around streets and their usage but also pull back to examine adjacent properties and affected neighborhoods within one or two miles. Those areas include the Innsbruck and Asheville malls, designated as urban and town centers, respectively, under the Living Asheville Comprehensive Plan. Denser development in similar centers throughout Asheville is expected to increase the appeal of bus transportation, thus reducing car traffic in the city.

Deliverables for the study, Satvika said, would include a public-supported vision for the corridor, a real estate and demographic analysis, zoning and urban design considerations, transportation analysis and implementation plans. He added that a request for proposals from outside professionals to conduct the study would be issued as soon as possible.

The effort was sparked by the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization, of which Asheville is a dues-paying member. Last fall, the MPO offered the city $157,500 (to be matched with $25,593 in local funds) for a corridor study of its choosing, with the goal of reducing automobile congestion and creating “an alternative to the auto-oriented cycle.”

Mayor Esther Manheimer shared the MPO’s hope that close examination of the busy thoroughfare will pay off in more manageable traffic conditions. “East Asheville is anxious for us to take a good look at Tunnel,” she said. “There are some great opportunities there to do something now so that it’s redeveloped in a way that’s a little more urban and walkable.”

In selecting Tunnel Road, Council effectively deprioritized Patton Avenue, which city staff had identified as the other option for the pilot study. Buncombe County, which also received funding from the MPO, had previously selected Hendersonville Road for its own corridor study.

Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler said she wished Council had resources to study all of its corridors but that Tunnel’s rapid pace of development made it the top choice. “There’s just so much that looks like it’s going to happen very soon that we did not want to miss a chance to have a look at it before things change and we wouldn’t have a chance to go back and fix it,” she explained.

Manheimer added that already-planned rezoning changes on Patton would provide a different approach to encouraging more urban development. “I just don’t want to feel like we’re losing Patton altogether, and I think with that rezoning effort, we won’t be,” she said.

After Satvika’s presentation, two commenters asked Council to consider options for improving safety along major corridors during power outages, as recently took place due to the remnants of Hurricane Florence. “It really was dicey out there, driving down Hendersonville Road without traffic lights,” one said. He suggested that the city explore backing up the lights through solar power or other means to avoid dangerous situations.


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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Assistant Editor of Mountain Xpress, regularly contributing to coverage of Western North Carolina's government, environment and health care. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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8 thoughts on “Council targets Tunnel Road for pilot corridor study

  1. Buncy

    Now what is double-talking Esther gonna do with Tunnel Rd.? She and her council of double-talkers have already trashed Kenilworth with cheap motels masquerading as “homestays” and single family homes converted into halfway houses for ex-cons and heroin addicts. Would you want your kids or yourself living in such dangerous neighborhoods? It didn’t take long for the skanks at City Hall to blight them. Judging by Esther’s amorphous and amoral mayoring, may we call her lawyering “squishy law?”

    • Beverly Wright

      You got that right! C’mon over to East Asheville, Esther, and help Highland Beer bring in the drunk tourists and trash the place. I like how the aftermaths usually look like a circus just moved out. How pitiful and shortsighted this city is…but hey, we now have sidewalks (for the use of the tourists to walk from Highland to McDonald’s)!

      • Lulz

        LOL you think these buffoons care. Why Bothwell himself with the RADRIP simply shrugged off the increases. They’re idiots.

        • Beverly Wright

          A confederacy of dunces with too much free time and our money…and bad beer

  2. Beverly Wright

    …and “target” couldn’t be a better word! We’re in their target. Sad.

  3. Enlightened Enigma

    Could ‘council’ ‘STUDY’ getting some of the cities STREETS REPAVED instead of this BS ‘study’ ??? WTF ?

    Will we EVER have ANY LEADERSHIP from AVL City Council ? Hold them accountable DAILY!

  4. Enlightened Enigma

    great new website at aligned with EnquiringMinds podcasts and some great investigative reporting! We NEED THIS NOW !!! THANKS, Roger McCredie!

  5. Jay Reese

    There have already been numerous studies conducted around the world showing how to improve traffic. Common sense tells us that removing cars from the road is the best way to solve the issue. Simply restripe the road to include bike lanes and increase the bus service and people will adapt.

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