Bear Trail will stay one way
By Frank Ruggiero
The Boone Town Council voted last Thursday to keep Bear Trail one-way.
After reviewing several options, including those of widening the road and installing a trip-light, council opted to leave the road one-way and install traffic calming and safety measures.
The town contracted HSMM Transportation to conduct an analysis of options for Bear Trail’s future. Anne Booker with HSMM presented a list of options to the town’s transportation committee in July.
Alternative one involves widening Bear Trail to the east for a roadway width of 18 feet, and includes several alternatives in itself regarding placement of a retaining wall. Depending on wall placement, the first alternative would run between $270,877 and $329,634, not including the acquisition of residents’ property.
Blake Brown, director of Boone Public Works, said alternative one would affect eight parcels of land.
Alternative two would widen the road to the west to achieve a road width of 18 feet, as well, and would involve the acquisition of residents’ property. Brown said widening to the west, which costs $115,750, would affect five parcels.
The third alternative would install a trip-light at a cost of $83,647, but was dubbed by the traffic committee as the least safe. Since drivers reportedly ignored the one-way status of Bear Trail, Booker said it was likely drivers would ignore the trip-light signal, as well.
Furthermore, the property of Bear Trail resident Margaret Agle would rest within the trip-light's signal zone, meaning the current entrance to her property would have to be moved or closed.
Brown clarified the costs he presented did not include land or right-of-way acquisition, and said the cost would really run more than a half million dollars.
Boone Mayor Velma Burnley noted the two-way Bear Trail option is cost prohibitive, and said safety is the main factor. Council member Bunk Spann asked Brown which option he considered the safest.
Brown said the two-way options were safe, but repeated how the town would have to acquire residents’ land. Spann said the first two options seemed like they would encourage drivers to speed, since the road would be considerably less narrow.
“And it’d surprise me if we could get the property owners to sell their property,” he said.
Brown continued, saying the safest route would be to just leave Bear Trail one-way, and that a two-way road is not so much a safety issue but a convenience issue.
Brown told council how he drove back and forth on King Street to determine travel times, and said it took him eight to 12 minutes to drive from public works to the fire department, and 15 to 20 minutes from the fire department to public works.
However, Brown did not conduct the test while class at Appalachian State University was in session. Brown later acknowledged the trip would take longer when school’s back in session, and said he plans to gather more times within the week.
“The safety issue is paramount,” council member Lynne Mason said, adding that a one-way Bear Trail would keep the neighborhood livable. She said it seemed the town was wrestling for the convenience of residents who live out of town on Howard Knob, and that the town shouldn’t have to pay more than a half million dollars for their convenience.
Since action for the Bear Trail case was not on the agenda, Mason moved to amend the agenda to make Bear Trail an action item. Spann seconded, and Mason moved to keep Bear Trail one-way, as it is.
Spann added a friendly amendment for the town to install safety measures under Brown’s supervision, Mason agreed, and Spann seconded her motion.
Council voted unanimously in support of the motion. Council member Graydon Eggers warned that the town should keep the Bear Trail case and study not too far back on the shelves, in case the issue reappeared in the future.
Residents in the Bear Trail area can expect safety and traffic calming measures to be installed relatively soon. Brown said public works is currently laying sidewalk on N.C. 105, but that the department should finish that work within a couple weeks.
“Then we’ll go up [Bear Trail] and take care of that,” he said. “So, within the next month, we ought to be able to see.”
Brown anticipated two more speed humps in the area, one past the American Legion building, and one past Agle’s fence on the north side.
Agle was one of the main proponents of keeping Bear Trail one-way, since she lives on the troubled trail. Agle was pleased with the traffic calming measures council had already implemented, but was satisfied and relieved to hear of council’s decision to keep the road one-way.
“It has been a great improvement since they made it one-way,” she said. “I find that people, even going one way, are much more careful now than they used to be. There’s all the difference in the world — there are a lot of people walking up here, biking, and it’s just a safer road all around. I couldn’t be anything but satisfied.”
Dr. Ted Waller, a resident of East View Drive, was not so ecstatic.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” he said, adding that a trip-light would have done the job. “People obey stoplights in this town, and if they stop at a red light, they know it’s going to turn green and they’ll have access and safety.”
He said the one-way designation makes it inconvenient for the neighborhood residents, saying all traffic exiting the neighborhood must “dump in to the east end of King Street.”
“It’s horrible,” he said. “It’s awful for us to access, awful for us going out into the west, and it increases the number of cars stuck on King Street blowing out exhaust.”
Waller doesn’t believe a one-way Bear Trail will cut down on cut-through traffic, saying it can travel from west to east with ease.
“From our house, it used to be easy to go to the library,” he said. “Now we don’t go. What used to be a five minute trip turned into a 20 minute trip sitting in traffic.”
•Frank Ruggiero can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org