What’s going on with the greenway? A timeline of events

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
The completed greenway project will connect downtown Black Mountain and more rural areas.

Black Mountain’s greenway project may not yet be completed, but town officials say it is on its way.

The project, first envisioned in 2002, is slated to be complete by 2024, according to Black Mountain Planning Director Jessica Trotman.

“I think that is potentially realistic,” Trotman said. “Right now we are waiting for a variety of reviews from DOT on our updated contracts and if that takes a normal amount of time, a month or two, I think we can stay on schedule.”

Trotman noted that if the North Carolina Department of Transportation is behind, the project could be extended, but the hope is for the current proposal to be completed in 2024.

Though originally planned to be completed as one, the project is now separated into two parts: EB-5547A and EB-5547B. Part A will go from behind Black Mountain Primary School to Black Mountain Avenue, while Part B will go from Black Mountain Avenue to Veterans Park.

In a news release giving an update on the project, the town said the name of the project was changed from Riverwalk Greenway to the two parts “due to the inability to secure easements and being unable to meet the hydraulic design requirements” of the NCDOT.  

Originally planned to go both under the railroad tracks and over Flat Creek, the greenway was not able to be completed in this area because of challenges associated with the geography.

A bridge over Flat Creek was scrapped as part of the greenway project because it could not meet NCDOT hydraulic requirements.

“The hydraulic design comment was related to the eastern section of the project that was originally going to go along the Swannanoa River and behind Bi-Lo in that area,” Trotman said. “When we put in the required bridges for the project, it actually created a rise in flood conditions, and that’s against the regulations, so we were not able to put the greenway in that area.”

Though a plan was made for hydraulic components, NCDOT eventually rejected it because of the rise in flood conditions.

In 2015, French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization funded preliminary design for alignment feasibility. The design process went on for 18 months between 2016 and 2017 before property owners rejected the river alignment in 2018 and a new alignment was developed.

Preliminary engineering began in 2019.  

“Preliminary engineering has only been going on for a couple of years and we had significant delays after we started preliminary engineering, including trying to attain a no-rise design, which we couldn’t do,” Trotman said. “That took many months. The project was actually frozen earlier by DOT with many other projects during some budget issues with DOT.”

The preliminary engineering continued into 2020 when a 30% plan was submitted to NCDOT.

Mayor Larry Harris said the 30% plan must be submitted so NCDOT can evaluate whether or not the project will work. In this case, NCDOT determined the hydraulic requirements were not met and failed the project.

Town officials said the greenway project is well on its way to being completed.

“We were just dead in the water,” Harris said. “Moving into 2021, we had a project that was not going to work easily. There’s not an easy way to resolve that. Unfortunately, the way it works with the federal dollars when you’re using them, it’s very rigid in the way you have to use it and administer it.”

Town Council voted to split the project in 2021, and the town approved a new contract with Michael Baker International for Parts A and B.

So far in 2022, the town has continued updating the budget for the state transportation improvement plan amendment.

“They’re approved, they’re funded, they’re going to happen,” Harris said. “In the STIP, our projects A and B are scheduled for completition next year and in 2024. We feel like we’re closing in on it.”

Harris said he is looking forward to the connectivity the greenway will bring the town when it is complete and he thinks the town will enjoy it.

“It’s a big deal,” Harris said. “Trails and greenways are a big deal in our region, and I think that we’ll get there with it. It just takes a while.”