“I really think it would be like a bomb; you would kill every business around it,” said Bill Norris at a public hearing to gather input on the project.
The proposed plan, drafted by J.M. Teague Traffic Engineering and Kostelec Planning, would call for a major realignment of the intersection of Walnut and North Main streets. The project would widen and realign the roads around the intersection of the two streets, add sidewalks and more parking, and create bike lanes. The estimated cost is $3.2 million, which would mostly be covered by the state since it owns Main Street.
Proponents of the project say it will fix the tricky intersection and finally complete the town’s sidewalk circuit running from the Waynesville Recreation Center to Lake Junaluska.
“The catchword of the day today is ‘complete streets,’” said Town Planner Paul Benson.
Other alternatives didn’t seem to work as well. A roundabout like the one further up North Main Street was considered but deemed too big for the space.
“All of us were like this is just not going to work,” said Mark Teague, owner of J.M. Teague Traffic Engineering.
But the project is not without its causalities. It would knock DuVall’s Restaurant and the muffler shop out of their current homes, which Norris considered a catastrophe that would mean the demise of the other businesses in the area.
“All this parking that would be created, it wouldn’t be needed if there weren’t any businesses there,” he said.
Norris has driven through the intersection multiple times a day for decades and doesn’t think there is enough traffic, foot or otherwise, to warrant changing the layout.
“It’s not a big problem right now,” Norris said. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
Waynesville Alderwoman Julia Freeman agreed. She drives through the area every morning on her way to work and doesn’t notice any traffic flow problems, she said.
But what she does see are people frequenting DuVall’s and the muffler shop.
“There are lots of people there,” Freeman said. “We will lose both of those.”
Fellow Alderman and bike rider LeRoy Roberson, however, felt the addition of sidewalks and bike lanes would greatly improve the area.
“I know I’ve ridden through there before, and I think that would be significant,” Roberson said.
As for the businesses, he thinks they would be just fine, even if they had to move locations.
“If they are doing good now, they could still exist,” Roberson said.
However, even if the board approves of the realignment plans, it will have to wait on the state to make the project a priority and find the funding for it — something that could very easily take decades. The businesses could remain in their current locations in the meantime.
Waynesville resident Maleah Pusz spoke at the end of the public hearing on the plan and summed up most people’s general feelings.
“I live over there, and I would like to walk my dog,” said Pusz in support of the sidewalks. “But I really hope we keep DuVall’s because I’d really like to walk my dog there too.”