New plan enhances traffic safety in Maggie

By Allison Richmond | Oct 17, 2016
Several crosswalks in Maggie Valley are in need of safety updates, prompting the town to take action.

MAGGIE VALLEY — Maggie Valley has been working for two years to develop a master plan for a town center that would appeal to visitors and make sense for both residents and business owners, but plan proposals have met with mixed reactions, causing the town to table them for the time being.

Acting in response to requests from residents and business owners to improve pedestrian safety and slow traffic, town leadership returned to the drawing board to develop a modified master plan that incorporates those elements.

Pulling from some of the ideas of the original plan, leadership presented a preview of the new plan to the board during Monday’s meeting.

The goals of the new plan include calming traffic, enhancing and improving safety at existing crosswalks and adding elements to beautify the stretch of U.S. 19, known as Soco Road, through town.

For pedestrians attempting to cross the 64 feet of roadway through the valley, engineers estimated it requires 16 to 18 seconds to cross. In that time, cars driving the speed limit will travel almost 1,000 feet, presenting a challenge to safe crossing.

This highlights the need for refuge islands in the middle of the crossing, a safe place for pedestrians to pause while waiting for traffic to pass.

Maggie currently has five crosswalks that feature refuge islands, the plan recommends tripling that number.

The islands would be of different configurations at various points throughout the valley to accommodate existing curb cuts and business entrances.

The plan also calls for restriping the existing five lanes, narrowing the travel lanes to 11 feet to provide natural incentive for motorists to slow down.

The restriping would also include a 4-foot wide bike lane in both directions through town.

As a gateway to Maggie Valley, a 270-foot landscaped island flanked by crosswalks would be installed between Woodfern Drive and Moody Farm Road, providing an inviting entry point for the town.

A similar island would be installed as a western gateway near Tube World and Fie Top Road.

Existing crosswalks in town would be enhanced and highlighted by design treatments such as brick-colored crossing zones, shading structures and benches where pedestrians can relax before or after crossing.

The plan also calls for solar-powered pedestrian crossing signs that would flash when a pedestrian pushes the button requesting to cross, alerting drivers with visual cues to the presence of pedestrians.

The lights are only activated if someone presses the button, providing a clear signal to alert drivers to the need to yield to pedestrians.

No resurfacing would be required with the new plan; it could all be accomplished simply by restriping, said Town Planner, Nathan Clark.

The biggest changes drivers will notice will be the narrower lanes and additional refuge islands. By adding ‘landing places’ for pedestrians both within the roadway and on other sides, the plan seeks to create a much more walkable and safe experience for pedestrians.

The cost for the proposed traffic safety improvements is estimated between $1.3 and $1.5 million. Funding options include money from the French Broad River MPO or the USDA Community Facility Loan program.

Alderman Janet Banks inquired if Main Street funding could be used for the project, but Clark explained that those types of funding typically do not apply to road projects.

The next steps for the project will be a series of walking tours led by Clark, which will be open to the public, to offer interested people a glimpse of why the traffic safety improvements are necessary and what they may look like.

The tours will be offered on Oct. 20 at 9 a.m., Oct. 27 at noon, and Nov. 3 at 5 p.m. The plan will come before the board for possible approval at the next board meeting scheduled for Nov. 14 at 6 p.m.