New York City? No wonder they left us out

A spokeswoman with the state Department of Transportation said they didn’t intentionally leave out the state’s westernmost counties on an official logo created by consultants paid $434,590.46 by taxpayers.

That amount, in the interest of accuracy, was a lump sum for work done on the Complete Streets project, not just for creating a logo that — despite transportation officials’ assurances to the contrary — fails to include the state’s westernmost counties.

The transportation department adopted a “Complete Streets” policy in July 2009. The policy directs the department to consider and incorporate several modes of transportation when building new projects or making improvements to existing infrastructure.

The transportation department contracted with consultant P.B. Americas — interestingly, the company is headquartered in New York, so how could they be expected to know about counties west of Buncombe? — to lead and assist the Complete Streets project.

“While I can see what you mean about the Complete Streets logo appearing to lop off the far western counties, I can assure you that’s not the intent,” said Julia Merchant, a transportation department spokeswoman.

Merchant, it should in fairness be made clear, is perfectly familiar with the western part of the great state she now serves. Before taking the job in Raleigh, Merchant worked for this newspaper as a reporter and is a graduate of Appalachian State University.                                                                                      

“The logo is simply a sketch/rough outline of the state, and not a to-scale map,” she said. “So while the sketch may seem to exclude the far western counties, I can tell you they were very much included (as was the rest of the state) when it came to developing the Complete Streets guidelines.”                                  

Don Kostelec, senior transportation planner who works for an Asheville consulting firm, wasn’t amused when he saw the pricey logo adorning the new initiative.

“Yeah, it’s probably a little petty,” Kostelec said. “(But the logo) has chopped off the westernmost counties of the state while the coast and Outer Banks still maintain all of their detail. As a native of Macon County, this infuriates me. And they wonder why there is a healthy distrust of Raleigh in the mountains?”

Kostelec suggested the newspaper use the following headline if it pursued a news story: “Complete Streets … Incomplete State.”

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