We need a transportation plan for Charlotte Street

There are two visions floating around about the future of Charlotte Street. One, which I’ll call the Rose Colored Glasses vision, has a street filled with center-lane planters loaded with beautiful trees. Sparse traffic moves along at a genteel 15 mph, with bicycles, joggers and pedestrians sharing this paradise with ever-vigilant automobile drivers. Small, locally owned vendors cater to this idyllic mixture with local products. Who could be against something this perfect?

The other vision, which I’ll call the Realist, sees Charlotte Street as a busy thoroughfare currently carrying 18,000 to 20,000 cars, buses and trucks daily as they make their way to I-240 or downtown and then back home again. This number of vehicles will eventually reach its pre-recession level of 29,000 as the economy recovers. This “regular” flow of traffic is joined by many, many vacationers during the summer, winding their way up to the Grove Park Inn for a stay or just to look around the historic hotel. Charlotte Street shops cater to these mobile populations with ample on-site parking and signage. Office buildings now replace gas stations, apartments replace single-family homes and food trucks and ad hoc used car lots utilize empty parking lots. Telephone poles block sidewalks, the street is in need of paving. Navigation for all modes of transportation can be difficult during the spring, summer and fall.

What’s going to happen to all those cars that use Charlotte Street on a daily basis. Are they going to disappear? The Realist would say, “No.” Those cars are just going to push through adjacent streets making life more noisy and dangerous for the residents.

We don’t need a long term “gateway” plan. We need a long term “transportation” plan that includes a viable strategy to move cars, bicycles and people through this strategic corridor and not fall prey to Rose Colored Glasses tribe and the havoc their vision can create.

— Max Alexander
Asheville

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