Thirty accidents were reported at the entrance of Roberson between Overlook Road and Miami Circle on Long Shoals in the last calendar year alone, according to the Asheville Police Department.
Although the community has repeatedly requested the placement of a traffic signal in the area for years, a simple solution has not been found.
According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), a traffic signal could cost anywhere from $50,000 to over $100,000. Also, the NCDOT follows national minimum standards to determine if a traffic signal is warranted, and in Roberson’s case, the traffic does not meet those standards.
North Carolina House Representative Brian Turner visited Roberson on Feb. 17 to talk with students, teachers and administrators first hand about any issues in Buncombe County Schools. Traffic on Long Shoals was one subject discussed.
“One thing I’ve learned in dealing with state government is that if you go to them and say ‘Can we have a traffic signal?,’ a lot of times they will say yes or no. But if you ask the question differently and say, ‘what can we do to improve traffic, safety, and flow issues?,’ that’s a more open question that allows for a variety of solutions,” Turner said. “To correct the problems we have on Long Shoals, a traffic signal may not be the right answer.”
According to Turner, the NCDOT has made it clear that a traffic signal at the entrance of Roberson is not in the long-term plans. However, conversations are ongoing, as the DOT continues to investigate other options.
An option that has surfaced is a change in legislation, bringing the discussion back from a federal level to a state and local level.
Turner said that the legislature has talked about implementing legislation that would allow the state to bypass national guidelines in this case. He also said he was committed to finding out if the state needs to make some exceptions to these rules around new drivers in order to insure the safety of people.
Principle Bonnie Johnston said the school has considered starting ten minutes later to try and solve the congestion of conflicting traffic from Estes Elementary, Koontz Intermediate and Valley Springs Middle School. However, no final decision has been reached on this potential mitigation.
According to Turner, some of the older traffic calming measures in South Asheville were applied inconsistently with newer national standards. Now, the NCDOT is more dedicated to following those standards, so the problem remains because the traffic count along Long Shoals does not meet the national criteria.
In addition, making changes at the entrance to Roberson has the potential to affect other traffic in surrounding areas. .
“[A traffic signal] would cause traffic backups and problems along Hendersonville Road and further down Long Shoals. When you add a signal, it’s like a ripple effect in a pond,” Turner said. “Folks focus on just what’s happening right here at the entrance to TC and sometimes don’t see that what changes go there have an impact that extends far beyond.”
According to Junior Class Secretary Sarah Lewis, Student Council decided to start a petition to get signatures in the hopes of providing support for improved traffic flow on Long Shoals after a meeting with the Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO).
“Everyone knows that the problem is there, but they haven’t come to the realization that it’s time to do something about it. So Student Council [is trying to] get students involved–getting them thinking about their community and how they could make a change that they want to see,” Lewis said.
Turner, who was in a number of accidents between the ages of 16 and 18, understands how dangerous the intersection can be for inexperienced drivers.
“I know personally the kind of damage and injury that can come with young drivers. I want to make sure that kids are able to be in a safe environment, especially when they’re coming to school,” Turner said. “To correct the problems we have on Long Shoals, a traffic signal may not be the right answer.”