Growing painsBusiness shift to West Waynesville creates traffic woes
As more businesses move to West Waynesville, traffic congestion has followed.
It's a development that has raised concerns for both shoppers and local residents.
"Getting on South Main from Auburn Road is almost impossible at times," said Brenda Rogers on the Mountaineer Facebook page.
The lack of green-arrow traffic signals and turning medians has created traffic jams on South Main Street, especially after 5 p.m. on the weekdays.
"There is a need to regulate the red lights better and have more turn signals," said Patricia Meyer on Facebook.
Congestion in West Waynesville has been a growing problem since the former Dayco industrial site was redeveloped into the Waynesville Commons, a shopping center that is now the home of Walmart, Michael’s, Belk and other retailers. But even more development has occurred just in the last year in the same corridor, including a new ABC package store, a new Old Town Bank building, Taco Bell and Mattress Firm.
Since this type of development typically leads to adjacent growth, the Town of Waynesville approved a redevelopment plan for South Main Street from Hyatt Creek Road to Ninevah Road in 2012. The corridor study vision is to transform South Main into “a vibrant, community-oriented main street that is attractive, safe, walkable and livable.”
South Main Street is owned and maintained by the North Carolina Department of Transportation and funding will have to come from that department. But getting funding for the project may still be years away, according to Waynesville Planning Director Paul Benson.
To complete many of the suggestions in the plan, the town requested the DOT do a road-widening project first on South Main Street. The project still remains unfunded.
"So the plan is just biding its time until the DOT starts doing any work," Benson said.
While he doesn't think there is a congestion problem yet, Benson said the project could become more important in the next few years if development and traffic continue to rise.
"At that point, it will be more of a priority project for DOT to take on," he said.
Even though residents have been complaining about the traffic congestion, Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed said traffic accidents on South Main have actually decreased slightly. In 2006, before the Waynesville Commons was developed, there were 108 traffic accidents. There were only 74 traffic accidents on South Main in 2013.
The redevelopment plan addresses vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle access while also investigating aesthetic improvements that are essential for redevelopment and sustainable growth for Waynesville.
As pointed out in the redevelopment analysis, the corridor is a conglomerate of different architectural styles, uses and setbacks, which makes it difficult to create a viable pedestrian corridor. Properties between Hyatt Creek Road and Allens Creek Road fall within the “regional center” base district zoning, which is a mixed use with a medium to high intensity level.
Properties north of Allens Creek Road fall into a business district zoning classification with low to medium intensity. But the district is in close proximity to a variety of land uses, including residential.
According to the study, the existing conditions on South Main are not conducive to safe traffic patterns, pedestrian movement or attractive development. The outlined plan would incorporate left turn lanes where possible, align streets and curbs, provide safer travel lanes with medians, pedestrian infrastructure and bike lanes where possible.
Benson said he was hopeful DOT would also put in bike lanes, new sidewalks and a roundabout at the intersection on Ninevah Road and South Main when the widening project is sone.
What the redevelopment plan can’t do is make private property owners redevelop their parcels if it is already within the town guidelines. The South Main study stated that the “deteriorated condition of these buildings along with varied setbacks from the curb to the building facade pose the largest conflict to providing a viable pedestrian corridor.”
Jordan-Ashley Baker, spokesperson for the DOT, said the project is currently in the preliminary research stage, meaning engineers are gathering information about what needs to be done and who would be affected by it.
The project is unfunded but should be ranked for funding soon. During that process, the DOT will hold a public input session and Baker said residents were encouraged to give feedback on the South Main project.