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Mills River cautiously endorses NC 280 bikeway

MILLS RIVER — With as much doubt as enthusiasm, the Mills River Town Council gave a lukewarm blessing to a study for a proposed 15-mile bikeway along N.C. 280 that would cost $8 million.


By adopting a resolution that endorsed the greenway study, the council took an incremental first step. It did not commit to funding the project — a point that Mayor Larry Freeman and council members repeatedly made.
"It really doesn't commit the town to anything," Councilman Roger Snyder added.
Town Manager Jaime Laughter said the resolution would be a step that qualifies the town to seek grants for the greenway, which would run from the Sierra Nevada property next to the Asheville Regional Airport to Brevard.
"The resolution indicates to a potential funder that you've got political support to do the job, that you've looked at the plan and you're supportive of it," Laughter said.
Council members discussed endorsing only the 2-mile segment from Westfeldt Park on Ferncliff Park Drive (the renamed Old Fanning Bridge Road) to Butler Bridge Road but Laughter said the town's chances of getting grants would improve if the council supported the entire corridor study.
Town Board agreed to endorse the whole study, still expressing misgivings.

 

"I've got mixed emotions about it at this point," Councilman Shanon Gonce said. "I just don't know. Even the Highway Patrol and Fire Department didn't know anything about it. I talked to them about it."
The board adopted a resolution saying that it wants the project to start on the northern end at Westfeldt Park.

Total cost: $8.15 million


The Town Council, French Broad MPO — the regional transportation planning agency that recommends state and federal road projects — and the Land of Sky Regional Council funded the study.
Consultants Alta Planning and Design and Kostelec Planning studied existing bikeways and potential connections, gathered data and hosted drop-in public comment periods.
In addition to the base cost of $7.5 million, the consultants said three signalized crossings of the highway would cost $50,000 each. Enhanced streetscape at the northern and southern terminal points of the trail and in the town of Mills River at a cost of $500,000 would bring the total to $8.15 million.

Corridor sees 'increased momentum'


Although the Alta report gave no cost estimate for crossing the French Broad, its overall cost estimate assumed "no new structure" for the span. Instead, the study made the assumption that the bikeway "could be accommodated on the existing bridge through pavement reallocation and separation."
"Increased momentum and interest in bicycling in the corridor has occurred because of the new Sierra Nevada Brewery located in Mills River," the consultants said. "With the brewery's commitment to sustainability and plans for an on-site trails network, N.C. 280 will be a key route for potential bicycle commuters."
The consultants cited a number of potential connections to existing designated bicycle routes and popular mountain biking destinations, including:

  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
  • Westfeldt Park, a small park and boat landing on the French Broad River.
  • Asheville bike paths (via Old Haywood Road).
  • Old Turnpike Road, an NCDOT-designated bike route that connects to South Mills River Road.
  • Pisgah National Forest (from North Mills River and Turkey Pen roads).
  • Glenn Marlow Elementary School.
  • Brevard, connecting to the city's existing greenways, Pisgah National Forest and potentially the proposed Ecusta Trail from Brevard to Hendersonville.