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Ecusta Trail details emerge as engineers reach design benchmark

Designers added images of a new stoplight for the Ecusta Trail crossing on Kanuga Road at Willow Road. [VAUGHN & MELTON ENGINEERS] Designers added images of a new stoplight for the Ecusta Trail crossing on Kanuga Road at Willow Road. [VAUGHN & MELTON ENGINEERS]

Folks eager to walk, bike, skate or jog on the Ecusta Trail can whet their appetite by perusing the images and words in a story board produced by the trail’s design team and just released to the public.

The so-called 30 percent design phase is the first significant milestone in a project’s path to construction, adding details that engineers will use in the construction bidding process. Among the tasks the trail’s design team completed in the first phase were identifying historic features, streams and wetlands, fish and wildlife habitats, completing flood impact studies and evaluating design opportunities and constraints. This phase of the design covers the first 5-mile leg of the trail, from Busy Bend in Hendersonville to U.S. 64 at Horse Shoe.

Among the most important pieces is the cost estimate. That’s now at $8.5 million, which includes trail construction, some planting, wayfinding signage and mile-markers but not bathrooms, parking and other amenities.

Here are other highlights of the new design report:

  • Trail width: Designers, the Friends of Ecusta Trail and the county’s Rails to Trails Advisory Committee all forecast heavy use of the trail from Main Street to White Pine Drive. That segment will be the widest, at 14 feet. The trail will be 12 feet wide along the more rural and lightly traveled leg from White Pine Drive to U.S. 64. “The goal is to provide a trail width that will allow for comfortable sharing of the trail by a variety of user types — people walking, running, rolling or cycling at all ages and levels of ability,” the designers said. There’s more than enough room to accommodate the expected width. The right of way varies from 37 feet at its narrowest to 123 feet at its widest.
  • Bridges: This section of the trail includes six bridges. After evaluating conditions of each, projected repair costs and capacity for supporting emergency or trail maintenance vehicles, engineers concluded that all six will be replaced. During construction contractors will install prefabricated steel bridges that will be elevated to avoid increased flooding.
  • Roundabouts: Two NCDOT projects in the works will impact the Ecusta Trail — the Brevard Road widening in Laurel Park and roundabout at White Pine Road and the South Main Street project that will include a roundabout at South Church Street. In Laurel Park, plans call for a temporary but fully functional trail crossing that will be modified when the roundabout is done. At South Main and South Church streets, the Ecusta Trail crossing will be constructed as part of the roundabout project. 
  • Crossings: Traffic engineers studied all roadway crossings to determined what kind of traffic control, safety measures and signage was needed. The solution varies “depending on traffic speeds and the amount of traffic at each roadway crossing and can include items such as traffic signals, flashing warning devices, painted pavement markings and warning signs.” At busy roads like U.S. 64 and Kanuga Road, a new traffic signal is needed. The trail crossing on Fifth Avenue West in Laurel Park was determined to need “flashing warning devices that are activated by the presence of approaching trail users,” the engineers said.  Crossings with lower traffic volumes and speeds, such as South Whitted Street, will get highly visible crosswalk markings and warning signs. 
  • What’s next: The engineers and designers move on to the 90 percent design milestone and then a detailed set of construction documents. After meeting with project stakeholders, the team will make final edits and then produce the construction documents needed to solicit bids for construction work.

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Click here to see the Ecusta Trail story map.