Is Henderson County growing?
Yes, Henderson County is growing. Most of the growth is toward the northern part of the county, in the Mills River and Fletcher area as Asheville expands outward. That area of the county is also a place of fairly flat land and open spaces, attractive to industry and housing developments and conducive to building infrastructure easily.
Who is advocating for new road/greenway/bike/ped projects?
Some road projects are needed for maintenance or for additional capacity for new housing developments or businesses. But much of this pressure is coming not from need but from local governments and NCDOT. These types of NCDOT projects fall into two broad categories:
- Road “improvements”
- Greenway/bicycle/pedestrian paths
Road “improvements”: NCDOT state-wide road standards are ever-expanding and constantly changing. Many, if not most, roads in Henderson County do not meet current NCDOT standards.
Does this mean that these roads are dangerous? No.
Does this mean that all of these roads should be brought up to current standards (NCDOT labels this “road improvement”)? No.
Does this mean that “road improvements” always improve roads? No.
Most of our roads handle traffic just fine and it would be a significant misuse of taxpayer money to “improve” a road unnecessarily. Yet that is what is happening in some of these projects. The N. Highland Lake Road project was given a value of “0” from NCDOT, meaning that this project is not necessary from a safety or congestion issue, yet it is on track for construction costing $2.7M.
Greenway/bicycle/pedestrian paths: The new “in-thing” in transportation, as required by the federal government and incorporated into the NCDOT Complete Streets policy, is to include greenways and/or bicycle and pedestrian facilities whenever a road is “improved.” In theory, this sounds fine–who could be against creating ways for people to move around their communities?
The devil, as they say, is in the details. When “improving” a road requires that the road width expand from 22 ft to over 56 ft, not for public safety reasons but to accommodate a bike/ped path, that land has to come from somewhere–usually from a property owner who is forced to part with it. That expansion may also not be in keeping with the character of the road being forever changed.
Greenways and bike/ped routes are predominately found in urban/suburban areas, built as the more natural ways of moving around a community are lost to development. They in turn contribute to the urbanization process.
Greenway plans for Flat Rock, on lists at the French Broad MPO, the Henderson County TAC, and NCDOT, include widening some of our most historic and iconic roads, including Little River Road, Rutledge Drive, W. Blue Ridge Road, and Greenville Highway. Yet there is no overall county-wide plan for greenways and bike/ped paths, so the end result will be an ad hoc collection of pathways with no sense of cohesiveness or direction and no planning with the cultural landscape in mind.