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A study examining parking and circulation in downtown Black Mountain has advanced to the public input phase. 

Dozens of area residents attended an Aug. 27 meeting in Town Hall, hosted by the town’s planning and development department and Traffic Planning and Design, Inc., the firm conducting the study. TPD shared preliminary data and solicited feedback from those in attendance, while an online survey collecting information on the habits of people visiting the district was posted on the town’s website (townofblackmountain.org) following the presentation.

Aldermen approved a $35,000 contract in May with the Ashevillle branch of the engineering firm. A grant awarded by the French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization in 2018 provided $28,000 toward funding the study; the town was responsible for the additional 20%. 

The goal of the project, which will be completed and presented to the board before the end of the year, is to increase safety downtown by reducing conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, while improving parking opportunities by maximizing the utilization of existing resources.

"The purpose of this study is to see if there are any changes we need to make in our high-volume areas to improve traffic flow," said Black Mountain Director of Planning and Development Jessica Trotman. 

Those improvements can come through signage, signal time, crosswalks or traffic calming measures, among other methods, according to Trotman.

"We want to improve access to, and the availability of, parking while helping people circulate safely and efficiently," said TPD Senior Project Manager Colin Kinton. 

The firm reviewed existing plans, studies and documents to ensure the project's consistency within the existing framework. TPD cited traffic congestion and parking supply as challenges detailed in documents they reviewed. 

Utilization of parking is highest near and along Cherry Street, where on-street parking is consistently at capacity, according to the preliminary data provided by TPD. Conversely, public parking available through the town's agreement with Black Mountain Presbyterian Church and Black Mountain Methodist Church, and on-street parking along Richardson Avenue is frequently under-utilized. The parking lot across from the town's public services and parks and recreation building on Terry Estate Drive is rarely used, TPD found. 

Thirty-four percent of on-street spaces are occupied four hours or more at a time, well above the average length of 86 minutes, the data indicated.

"Traffic volume along Cherry Street is relatively low," Kinton said. "The main source of traffic on that street consists of people looking to find parking on that road, and delivery trucks."

Aldermen passed a resolution on Aug. 12 to convert Cherry Street to a one-way, northbound traffic pattern based off the recommendation of TPD and Waynesville-based JM Teague Engineering, which conducted a study of the block in the summer of 2018. 

"One of the issues we were trying to address through that recommendation was congestion and pedestrian safety at the intersection of Cherry and State Streets," Kinton said. "Converting Cherry Street to a northbound pattern, then everyone will have to turn right onto State, because left turns aren't allowed there. That will allow the town to narrow the crosswalk to allow pedestrians to cross at a shorter distance there.

"If it was a one-way going south, westbound traffic on State Street would be turning left," he continued. "Since there is only one lane there, it would back up traffic into the Montreat Road intersection, creating more congestion. And in addition, turning right onto Cherry Street from State is a difficult maneuver because there is a sharp angle, and wouldn't allow for the pedestrian improvement of shortening that crosswalk."

The town plans to convert Cherry Street to a one-way by the fall. 

Feedback offered during the Aug. 27 meeting, the first of two that will be held on the study, allows TPD to consider the public's perspective, Kinton said. The online survey, which will be available on the town's website through September, will provide data on how parking is utilized during weekdays and weekends. 

"We will collect all of this data and formulate alternatives on how to address parking, signage or improving traffic conditions and create specific policy recommendations," Kinton said. "We'll come back in October and share our recommendations with the public."

The town will then decide how to move forward based off of those recommendations, according to Trotman. 

"Those recommendations will not be a policy-making document," she said. "This study will identify what we have, how it's being used and how we can use it to the best of our ability."

For more information on the parking and circulation study or to participate in the survey visit townofblackmountain.org. 

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