Letter: Fix needed for New Leicester Highway intersection

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I have been driving into town from Leicester for 13 years and 10 months nearly every day, and on many days twice. There is generally a backup of traffic as you approach the intersection at Highway 63 and Patton Avenue. [The Asheville Police Department] is quite aware of this and has managed to make a point of policing this area to ticket those that use the turn lane to expedite the movement of traffic.

In other more civilized communities, when there is a problem created by a poor design of the roadways, an intelligent solution is sought. I have waited now years for there to be a solution that allows for the free flow of traffic at this intersection. There is a simple solution that has been executed in other similar circumstances, but it would end a revenue source for the Asheville Police Department.

On many occasions, I have witnessed the Police Department setting up a “sting” operation at this location, chasing down motorists who have entered the turn lane that is rarely used by anyone and ticketing them for this ridiculous violation. This turn lane is for those wanting to turn left, which is fine, but in 13-plus years that I have been using this section of the road, it is very unusual to see anyone using this lane to make a turn. When it does occur, people using the lane are respectful and assist the person turning left by stopping, which encourages the drivers in the right lane to pause so the vehicle can turn left.

The idea of setting up a “trap” to generate revenue by dinging the citizens of Buncombe is not in keeping with what our county is about. This practice creates a major traffic hazard far beyond a vehicle entering the expressed turn lane “too early.”

On June 21, I witnessed a motorcycle cop race past weaving in and out of oncoming traffic to catch a motorist four cars ahead of others that had just committed the same offense. It was a masterful stunt that could have resulted in a tragic accident — and for the $238 fee?

The simple solution to this is to make that turn lane usable during rush hour traffic for those driving into town. This simple solution would allow traffic to flow properly without making the drive into town a waste of fuel, time and upset. There have been times when I have been in line for this intersection as far back as Salvation Army, which if all goes well, requires roughly a 10-minute wait.

Signs making it not OK to use the left turn lane for left turns from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m. would solve this traffic snarl, doubling the traffic that could access Patton Avenue at each light cycle.

[In my case, the officer] who stopped me was shaking in his boots when he approached my truck I believe because he knew that what he was doing was wrong. Yes, he was doing his job, but every one of these officers who are given this assignment must single out one individual lawbreaker while hundreds of others “break the law” to get to work on time.

In my case … which I will go to court to discuss, I was in the right lane when a truck pushed me out of this lane as he pulled into the turn lane from the far right lane. I pulled into the left lane — the “left turn only lane” — to avoid an accident. There was no turning back at that point as the legal turn lane was packed, so I continued unobstructed to the signal at Patton with [the officer] in pursuit.

He made sure to point out that it was well-publicized that the police patrolled this area. A point well taken and witnessed repeatedly over the years. [The officer] also pointed out the very high number of accidents that happen at this section of Highway 63. In the thousands of visits to this section of the road over the years, I have only seen the aftermath of two accidents. Most of the accidents on 63 that I have witnessed are up beyond the Salvation Army location.

In the thousands of visits to this section of the road over the years, I have only seen the aftermath of two accidents. Most of the accidents on 63 that I have witnessed are up beyond the Salvation Army location.

I do not feel as though the manpower necessary to “catch” those using the vacant left-turn lane at rush hour is an effective use of our taxpayer dollars or our safety. As a contributor to our community, a businessman and a law-abiding citizen, it is an annoyance we can all do without, so [I would ask the Police Department to] please consider stopping the practice. Or, if [they] must persist, then do it with a warning, not a ridiculous price tag.

— John Perkins

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted the city’s office of Communication & Public Engagement and received the following response from communication specialist Polly McDaniel: “This highway and its intersection are maintained by the N.C. DOT, and the city of Asheville does not determine the lane designations or the traffic pattern.

As for enforcement, the Asheville Police Department frequently receives complaints about unlawful use of the turn lanes at that location.

It is illegal to pass in that turn lane.

Officers understand the traffic congestion that occurs at that busy intersection and try to be forgiving for some early entries into the lane prior to Patton Avenue. However, some motorists have been observed traveling down that turn lane from as far back as Oak Hill Drive. This creates a dangerous head-on collision potential with motorists who need that lane to make legal turns, as it is designed.

In response to renewed complaints, Lt. Mike Yelton of the Asheville Police Department Traffic Safety Unit directed traffic officers to renew targeted enforcement in that area in the interest of public safety.

APD has never conducted a ‘sting operation.’ Officers observe traffic conditions as created by motorist behavior and take enforcement action when illegal behavior makes it necessary. This is our mandate in a city that has consistently ranked among the most dangerous in the state for crash-related injuries and fatalities.

N.C. General Statute 7A, Article 28, lays out the schedule of fees associated with all criminal charges, as well as how those monies are allocated. APD has no input on how those monies are collected or spent.

By remaining in a designated travel lane until the painted markings indicate the next lane to the left is open and approved for use as a left-turn lane, motorists will be operating within the law. Motorists obeying the law should not be affected by enforcement being conducted in this area.”

Xpress also contacted the N.C. DOT and received the following response from Division 13 Maintenance Engineer Mark T. Gibbs: “Currently, the center lane can be used as a left-turn lane, provided the traffic does not back up and block the driveway to Ingles and other adjacent businesses.

A project is planned to construct three left-turn lanes from Leicester Highway onto Patton Avenue. This is only a small part of a larger access-management project on Leicester Highway. The project will also include other modifications to the intersection in order to enhance traffic movement on Leicester Highway and the intersection of Patton Avenue.  Knowing the congestion issues that exist at this intersection today, we hope to accelerate this portion of project to an earlier date to get these improvements implemented sooner.”

For more on the timing of those improvements, Division 13 Project Development Engineer D. C. “Cole” Hood offered the following update: “The New Leicester Highway/Patton Avenue intersection project has recently received funding, and we are now starting the preliminary design of this intersection. The New Leicester Highway/Patton Avenue intersection project has a schedule of construction in 2022; we hope to accelerate the project significantly to start in the next couple of years. The design of this intersection is going to be complex due to the volume of traffic, the need to provide access to businesses and the coordination required for the relocation of existing utilities.”



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4 thoughts on “Letter: Fix needed for New Leicester Highway intersection

  1. bsummers

    “…chasing down motorists who have entered the turn lane that is rarely used by anyone and ticketing them for this ridiculous violation”

    “Rarely used”? I’ve tried to use that center turn lane when people coming the opposite direction from Leicester feel entitled to use it illegally as a travel lane. It’s terrifying. You realize that there are people out there who would gladly risk a head-on accident with you, just to try to ‘make that light’. If you hit someone there, would you claim it was their fault? Just one accident makes it not worth the risk.

    And what about the businesses on the west side of Leicester Highway? They don’t get to ever have customers be able to turn into their lots safely, because the impatient Leicester drivers might kill them if they try? The intersection needs work, clearly, Until that happens, I hope they ticket the heck out of drivers who risk other people’s lives just because they’re in a hurry.

    • luther blissett

      “what about the businesses on the west side of Leicester Highway?”

      Yep. If you’re turning left into those businesses, you’re outta luck. If you’re turning left out of those businesses, you’re outta luck. If you’re turning *right* out of those businesses and want to turn left onto Patton, you’re also outta luck getting over to the left turning lanes. Safest option then is to turn right, head up towards the urgent care / Wendy’s light and U-turn back.

      Put a roundabout there with lights to control flow at peak times.

  2. Lulz

    LOL the country is about extorting as much out of it’s citizens while keeping them in fear and also just barely afloat. The laws nowadays are meant to justify government theivery.

  3. Deplorable Infidel

    biggest problem is drivers who should stay in the outer lane veer into the wrong lane when turning left…happens at La. and Patton too…it’s the unskilled drivers that are the problem.

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