BLOWING ROCK — Increasing pedestrian safety on Main Street was the main topic of discussion during the Oct. 13 Blowing Rock Town Council meeting. Due to COVID, the meeting was made accessible to the public via a live Zoom feed. In attendance were council members David Harwood, Doug Matheson, Virginia Powell, Sue Sweeting and Albert Yount. Also in attendance were Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie Sellers, Town Clerk Hilari Hubner and Town Manager Shane Fox.
The bulk of the council’s discussion centered on making improvements to the cross walks on Main Street, a subject that council members said are a matter of public safety.
A hub for tourism, downtown Blowing Rock accommodates scores of visitors each year, on peak days seeing as many as 30,000 visitors pass through the mountain village, according to town officials. The high amount of foot traffic, intermingled with passing cars has raised safety concerns, particularly on Main Street and Sunset Drive, across from the town’s Memorial Park.
“Last January during our town council retreat, we identified all of Main Street as being in need of new safety measures for pedestrian traffic,” said Fox.
Town Engineer Doug Chapman presented the council with three options for improving the safety of the Main Street intersection, each of which were discussed in detail. Out of the three options, the council favored option one at a cost of about $270,000, which would consist of installing new traffic and pedestrian signals that would be mounted on the sides of the intersection and constructing curb extensions to accommodate signals and adhere to NCDOT standards. Accomplishing this option would mean the loss of two parking spots to the proposed curb extensions.
Option two would consist of retaining the existing traffic signals and installing new pedestal crosswalk signals which would be mounted on new poles on the intersection’s northeast corner. A curb extension would be installed on the west side of the intersection adjacent to Memorial Park, this would shorten the crossing distance of Main Street south of the intersection. Option two would mean the loss of one parking space to curb extension. The estimated cost of option two is $190,000.
Option three would also retain the existing traffic signals, as well as the crosswalk lengths, while installing new pedestrian signals mounted on new poles on the southeast and southwest corners of the intersections. A third signal would be mounted on an existing pole on the northeast corner of the intersection. No curb extension would remain, however the handicap ramp on the east end of Main Street would be replaced to meet the latest ADA requirements. Option three would cost an estimated $120,000.
Although option one is the most expensive of the three, it was deemed by council members as the most aesthetically pleasing. Although pedestrian safety was at the forefront of the discussion, the council noted that both the town’s aesthetic and naturally beautiful setting are big draws for tourism and should be preserved and improved.
“I’m extremely happy that the town council has chosen to move forward with this project. The new pedestrian signals will first and foremost increase safety for the citizens of Blowing Rock and its visitors, while also beautifying the town,” said Fox.
Aside from the road work on Main and Sunset, the council discussed safety projects such as crosswalks and pedestrian signals for Chestnut Street and Hwy. 221, although no decisions were made about those locations.
After some deliberation, the council decided to carry the project on Main and Sunset to the next step, which will be contacting contractors for possible bids and accepting new design concepts. This process is expected to be completed by November or December of this year, with the overall project expected to be complete by spring of 2021.
For more information about the Blowing Rock Town Council and project within Blowing Rock, call (828) 295-5200.
You can also view the agenda and minutes of past town council meetings at https://www.townofblowingrocknc.gov/residents/meeting-agendas/town-council-agenda.