The long-bloated and oft unsafe Merrimon Avenue is set to transform in a major way. Starting late this summer, a ~1.5 mile section will downsize from four to three car lanes and add 5-ft bicycle lanes. Additionally, a larger 2.5 mile road section will undergo resurfacing.
The proposed $2.5 million conversion, which saw more than 4,000 public comments and 59% approval from locals, was approved Tues., May 24 in a 6-1 vote by Asheville City Council with Sandra Kilgore as the sole dissenter.
Let’s map it out
The road diet will start at Midland Road and run south to WT Weaver Boulevard — see it mapped out here. A larger 2.5 mile section (starting at the I-240 interchange and running north to Beaver Lake) will also be resurfaced. The majority of the funding will come from the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT), with Asheville on the hook for $275,000.
The goal of the project
To increase safety for drivers and expand multi-modal transit (think walking, biking, etc.). As it stands, there’s an approximately 150% higher rate of crashes on the corridor compared to similar roadways across the state — and for anyone who’s tried to bike or walk along Merrimon, you know how nerve wracking it can be.
Urban planners hope that the Merrimon Avenue road diet will yield similar results to Charlotte Street, which underwent a road diet in 2019. In the two years since that conversion, data has illustrated a 59% decrease in crashes, 3% reduced vehicle speeds, and increased bike use.
A few caveats
Expect to add ~2-3 minutes (or a 17% increase in travel time) to your commute. Also, if the road diet proves unsuccessful, it could be reversed for a sum of up to $300,000.
The resurfacing is expected to run from August to September and the road diet work should begin in October. The project should be complete by the end of 2022.