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Data collection for a parking and circulation study of Black Mountain’s central business district is underway.

The project is intended to provide the town insight into transportation patterns in the area and allow officials to address current and potential traffic and parking issues downtown.

Aldermen on May 13 approved a $35,000 contract with Pennsylvania-based Traffic Planning and Design Inc., which operates a firm in Asheville.

The majority of the funding for the study was awarded to the town by a grant through the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The MPO, a partnership of 21 Western North Carolina counties and municipalities with the state government, assists in making transportation decisions in urbanized areas in the region. The organization awarded the grant to Black Mountain in the spring of 2018.

Black Mountain will contribute $7,000 to the study, which is expected to run through mid-December.

TPD will provide project management services, facilitate public engagement, collect and assess data and offer recommendations, according to the agreement. 

Future of Cherry Street remains a question

A study of traffic and parking patterns on Cherry Street conducted by J.M. Teague Engineering and Planning in the summer of 2018 concluded with the recommendation that the town convert the downtown road to a one-way street, with traffic flowing northbound toward U.S. 70 (State Street). Aldermen elected to wait for the results of the broader parking and circulation study of the entire district before making a decision.

Last November, the board voted to direct town manager Josh Harrold to execute an interlocal agreement with Land of Sky Regional Council to request proposals for the project. 

The town's agreement with TPD specifies that the firm will review the Cherry Street study and provide recommendations for implementation within the first 30 days of the notice to proceed. 

"We'd like to have that recommendation within the next 30 days, so we can make a decision on Cherry Street first," Harrold said. "That road has been paved, we want to get it striped and have the parking spaces out there so parking will be more delineated. We'll look at what was originally proposed and take the data (TPD) is collecting now and decide from there."

Data collection for the study will include 24-hour counts on State Street and Broadway Avenue to determine peak traffic periods. The firm will seek guidance from the steering committee to identify up to six intersections on which to study turning movement during peak traffic hours in the area. 

Counters will be located at various intersections downtown. 

Parking spaces will be surveyed

A detailed study of parking occupancy data is included in the agreement, and TPD will train town staff to conduct license plate surveys of on-street parking spaces, in an effort to understand parking duration and turnover characteristics for the spots. The firm will also conduct a current inventory of parking spaces in the study area. 

Parking data can also be used to identify future deficiencies, according to TPD. 

Pedestrian and bicycle traffic and access will be studied during the project, which will examine the existing conditions and deficiencies for multimodal transportation. Assessing those needs will allow recommendations for the town's existing bike and pedestrian plans. 

The study will also include recommended policy and infrastructure improvement, preparation of a master plan and an implementation plan for suggested upgrades

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