Coming soon: Traffic mess on Merrimon Avenue in north Asheville


Loyal reader Sammy snapped the above photo on Merrimon Avenue at the new Trader Joe’s/Merrimon Avenue intersection and sent it along with this note:


Saw this Harris Teeter truck making one of the most challenging left hand turns in Asheville (heading N. on Merrimon).

By the way, driver failed.

Lots of folks have commented about how the new Trader Joe’s and Harris Teeter are going to make the already existing Merrimon Avenue traffic nightmare worse, and here we have the first of what I predict will be many indications. There is a new stop light going in just a few hundred feet north of this light, which is at the intersection of Merrimon and Chestnut.

What say you, Asheville? Solutions? Just stay away? Is there a fix?


Susanne Hackett August 9, 2013 - 3:12 pm

If you want to be part of preventing this in West Asheville, participate in the Form-based code process over the next 6-8 months. First meeting: August 13 6:30 pm at Hall Fletcher Elementary School. More here:

buddy August 8, 2013 - 6:14 pm

You all are right that the City of Asheville does not have control over Merrimon–it’s an NCDOT road and DOT gets to make the decisions about that road, including how and where intersections meet the road. Granted, the City could (and should) get a little more pushy with the Division Engineer, who is notoriously un-supportive of just about anything that doesn’t follow a “normal” transportation pattern, i.e. transforming Merrimon into a multi-modal corridor has a snowball’s chance in hell of happening under his leadership until there is a really big stick guiding him in that direction. Unfortunately, that stick is further out of reach now that the new administration is laser focused on linking transportation infrastructure projects to jobs and economic development…a focus which sacrifices the previous administration’s support of multi-modal transportation.

Regarding the State’s new Complete Street’s, it applies to new roads. Retrofitting is an option, but a harder one. There are cities in NC who have had more success with multi-modal retrofits on state roads than Asheville has. I think (and this is purely my opinion), that the success elsewhere has to do with the will of the division engineer for that area. Charlotte, which has more traffic problems than Asheville, has been able to do some neat things on state roads…and money isn’t the only difference between us and them. They apparently have an engineer that is supportive of their vision, we don’t. I wonder if the MPO can collectively put more pressure on our Division Engineer?

Think hard about the consequences of removing on-street parking be from Chestnut. Right now, this is the only type of traffic calming on that road. Without it, that section would become a speedway from Merrimon to Broadway. There is value in slowing people down with on-street parking.

Finally, pay attention to and have conversations with the folks who are running for City Council…make sure the people you vote for are committed to updating (and then using) the City’s Comprehensive Plan. If the 2025 plan had been followed, the current development pattern at that corner would not have happened.

Ok, finally for real. We’ll all figure out this new transportation pattern. It’ll suck until we do, but we’ll get it. Let’s be nice to each other until we do.

Drake August 9, 2013 - 10:31 am

Word, Buddy is on the right track.

indie August 9, 2013 - 12:32 pm

Hope you find your dad.

JT August 12, 2013 - 1:47 pm

Great input here.

We love that there is on-street parking on our 5points street, it definitely slows folks down and frustrates drivers looking to haul ass through their “shortcut”. I’ve read so many folks saying that the on-street parking on Chestnut is dangerous, but from what I observe it does a great job slowing folks down in neighborhoods.

Laura August 8, 2013 - 5:00 pm

I’m not even attempting the Merrimon exit off 240. I’ll drive a few miles out of the way and continue up 26 and get off the exit before New Stock Rd. This way all I have to make is a couple of right-turns. Adds a few miles but a lot less headache.

Andrew Fletcher August 8, 2013 - 4:56 pm

First, make E. Chestnut St. from Maxwell to Merrimon a one way, so traffic only heads toward Merrimon. There goes your left turn heading north on Merrimon problem. You would then also have a dedicated left turn lane from E. Chestnut to Merrimon AND a right turn lane to keep traffic flowing.

Second, the new traffic light that is being added north of Chestnut on Merrimon will probably alleviate more problems than the other commenters anticipate.

Third, Entrance to Greenlife should be improved from Broadway at the Pioneer Building by widening Bordeau Pl. and making Maxwell St. the chief exit for Greenlife customers.

Getting people to STOP turning left on Merrimon into Greenlife and soon-to-be Trader Joe’s is hard to do if you try to do it directly, but by improving the alternatives and getting Greenlife to cooperate by modifying the traffic pattern of their parking lot would make a big dent.

Trust me, I’ve played a LOT of SimCity.

rodney January 24, 2014 - 12:51 am

Except the new traffic light doesn’t have a left turn only light, and there is no way to anticipate oncoming traffic coming from over the hill, so that intersection is constantly causing accidents for those needing to turn left.

Ron August 8, 2013 - 3:06 pm

I am some what of a newbee to Asheville and I have lived in allot of the country. One of my observations since arriving is the passiveness of the drivers here. I notice it on Chestnut and Merrimon the most because i drive it every day. What gets me the most is when your on Chestnut waiting to turn left onto Merrimon agents traffic, waiting for someone els thats turning on the other side and as i m turning they just sit there when they could have turned. One day four cars turned and still they sat there waiting for what I don’t know. It happens so often!

Smytty August 11, 2013 - 11:54 am

Better than those on Merrimon waiting to turn into traffic who pull halfway across the road and wait for the other side to clean. That’s just insanity.

mindtonic August 8, 2013 - 2:25 pm

This is a serious safety issue. Does anyone know how to appeal to the city council to address this grievance before it gets worse? I think the idea of two wide traffic lanes, a turn lane, and enhanced bike lanes and sidewalks is an excellent solution. How do we as citizens approach the city to suggest these improvements? It should be done soon, before the stores open and the volume of traffic through “grocery alley” triples.

Murphy August 8, 2013 - 2:55 pm

I feel certain that decisions regarding traffic patterns, widening, signals etc. have been made at the State level (since Merrimon is a State maintained Highway): and nothing could change those decisions at this point.

indie August 8, 2013 - 3:38 pm

It isn’t in the city’s control since it is a state road. Zero chance the NCDOT will make a 4 lane road a 2 lane road.

mindtonic August 8, 2013 - 4:54 pm

Fair enough. I hadn’t thought of the NCDOT aspect of this. Does NCDOT also control street parking or is that a City issue? All steeet parking on Chestnut between Merrimon and Liberty should be removed. There is not enough room to compensate for the amount of traffic.

Murphy August 8, 2013 - 6:27 pm

that’s the City …

notice how the “quality” of the sidewalks change from State maintained to City “maintained” …

North Asheville Neighbor August 8, 2013 - 12:57 pm

Drake has the best suggestion I’ve heard. Three with good bicycle and pedestrian access. Yes please.

indie August 8, 2013 - 3:40 pm

It is the state’s call since it is their road. Zero chance they go to 2 lanes, IMHO.

Drake August 8, 2013 - 4:43 pm

Actually, the state just adopted a complete street policy which requires the state to think about all modes of transportation when designing or re-designing a road. Our city has many of these 4 lanes roads, all opportunities to make our streets more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. We are making progress. It is not going to happen tomorrow but eventually this road is going to be re-designed. When it does we need to push for a complete street and maybe consider it acceptable for a car trip from downtown to beaverdam to take 10 minutes instead of 8.

indie August 8, 2013 - 5:25 pm

Ok, they thought about it. No change.

indie August 8, 2013 - 12:48 pm

Has the author of this short piece or any of the commentators lived, or even been, anywhere else?

If Merriman is a traffic nightmare, your days and nights must be filled with pleasant thoughts and dreams.

Murphy August 8, 2013 - 12:24 pm

I thought the City had placed restrictions on when trucks could deliver to those new sites …

a link to the site map which does not show a turn lane:

from The Daily Planet (in 2011):

“If the plan is approved by the state Department of Transportation, the Charlotte-based development company in the project would install turn lanes and a traffic signal at the Merrimon/Broad intersection.”

Jessie August 8, 2013 - 11:58 am

Oh, the irony of engaging in dangerous behavior behind the wheel in order to point the finger at others creating traffic hazards.

Y. Neabichez August 8, 2013 - 11:49 am

Since people gave up the option to fight these buildings coming to Merrimon in the first place, you have one option left:

Accept and deal

sam wolfe August 8, 2013 - 11:25 am

Merrimon traffic “nightmarish”? Really? Merrimon is just a little head toss on the pillow, not a nightmare.

Adam August 8, 2013 - 9:25 am

No left turns… painful, but they’ll have to find a route!

Could you imagine installing a roundabout on the existing road? Sorry folks, but it’d be shut down completely for months!

Ashley August 8, 2013 - 8:56 am

I’m a pedestrian, and it already takes me almost 20 minutes to cross Merrimon Ave sometimes. Once Harris Teeter/Trader Joe’s opens, it’s going to be a nightmare. I’ve seen other people almost get hit trying to cross at the Coleman intersection because they almost miss the bus due to just not being able to get across the road. A couple more stoplights would be nice for us.

indie August 8, 2013 - 12:45 pm

Odd. The light changes every couple of minutes. Why would you stand thru 9 or 10 of them before crossing?

luther blissett August 10, 2013 - 12:02 pm

Perhaps because drivers consider “right on a red” as an sacred right, regardless of pedestrians waiting to cross?

Smytty August 11, 2013 - 11:52 am

This is true. Pedestrian in this town are treated as third class citizens, crosswalks or not. You take your life into your hands if you attempt to follow the laws rather than your common sense and step into the road with the right-of-way.

indie August 11, 2013 - 4:02 pm

Yeah, pedestrians are dropping like flies as they get run over in cross-walks.

Kipper August 8, 2013 - 8:54 am

Based on the footprint of Harris Teeter, I was under the assumption that the intersection was being widened.

The building is set back from the side walk, there’s a second sidewalk that’s already been poured, and more than enough room to change the current intersection lay out.

If everyone wants to get angry and tease themselves into a frenzy before construction is done just let me know. I love flipping out too.

North Asheville Neighbor August 8, 2013 - 8:44 am

Asheville city FAIL. I live in this neighborhood. I love this neighborhood. I hate what it is about to be like…

The city missed a glorious opportunity to at least fix the chestnut intersection by installing a left turn lane. But its too late now. Welcome to the mess, its about to get ugly. Wait until the first cell-phone addled driver gets t-boned turning left…. then we’ll really be screwed.

Are they going to remove all the on-street parking on Chestnut? Probably not. Do thry need to? Absolutely.

This isn’t a NIMBY comment. I can’t wait to walk to Trader Joe’s. This is a FMBYP (fix my backyard, please) comment. I’m not anti-development, I’m against irresponsible development, and this is a shining example.

hauntedheadnc August 8, 2013 - 12:11 pm

We can thank you and your neighbors for this mess. You had the chance to extend downtown, which would have allowed for growth without the traffic of sprawl — but you fought it and now we get sprawl and the traffic it brings. Thanks bunches.

JT August 8, 2013 - 4:05 pm

Ain’t that right, they fought against the condos because of the shade that would come from the buildings in the wintertime. That is a ridiculous sense of entitlement for someone who lives less than a mile from downtown.
Also, I will say it along with many others… Merrimon traffic is not bad. Bad traffic involves sitting still, which happens for maybe 10 minutes per day on Merrimon.

PBnJ August 9, 2013 - 7:54 am


Yes, Merrimon isn’t bad in the sense that traffic is bad. High volume is not bad traffic.

North Asheville Neighbor August 8, 2013 - 4:57 pm

For the record, I did not protest the mixed use development. I thought it was a great idea. And I have lived several places with much more serious traffic. My issue is with the safety hazards that are going to arise from the pure volume of traffic and the limited sight distance on the hill.

indie August 8, 2013 - 5:22 pm

Playing the “safety” card is always a sign that you have argument.

indie August 8, 2013 - 5:23 pm

no argument

northashevillian August 9, 2013 - 9:16 pm

Have been working on rerouting myself for months. Whoever approved this mess should be fired. I was under the impression buildings had to be 10 feet from the street, Trader Joes is not so on Chestnut. All in all this is a the biggest nightmare. on Merrimon, will be hard to beat, but I bet someone at city hall can. Baffoons.
If you are from out of town and thinking of moving here, think again. If you really want to do it I have a lovely house for sale.

North Asheville Neighbor August 10, 2013 - 1:01 pm

Snarky troll reply from Indie in 10… 9… 8…

Smytty August 11, 2013 - 11:50 am

Really? How hard have you been trying to reroute yourself? How about Charlotte St., Kimberly, or Broadway? I only ever put my tires on Merrimon if I have to, and this mess will certainly make it worse, but there’s lots of workarounds.

If you think that Asheville traffic is really all that heinous, try any other town of any size. People in Asheville seem to think that if it takes more than ten minutes to get across town, their lifestyle has been ruined.

Merrimon has been an unpleasant mess for drivers for the last 20 years, and these two stores certainly won’t make it better. But geez, all these Chicken Littles would make you think that all traffic north of Asheville will be stopped dead. These two stores are taking over two previous blocks of other commercial spaces. If this change alone is going to send you to your realtor to sell your house, you must really be a big fan of our little mountain town. Remember to thank this growth and expansion for whatever appreciation your house has made since you purchased.

orz August 12, 2013 - 2:11 pm

YES. Missed opportunity. I cannot fathom why the city did not make the developer install a left turn lane at Chestnut as a condition.

Drake August 8, 2013 - 8:40 am

A four lane road without a turn lane functions like a two lane road with a turn lane. Anyone who has been caught behind someone trying to turn left understands this. So either call a spade a spade and make Merrimon a three lane road with bike lanes and better sidewalks, you know sidewalks without power poles coming out of the center of them. The second option is go to five lanes and blow the the whole road apart, this would require buying more right of way and redesigning each intersection. I gues the third option is to install medians limiting left hand turns to actual intersections.

In the end is the future of Merrimon a urban street or an arterial connector?

Chris Dahlquist August 8, 2013 - 8:24 am

Maybe it would be safer and more efficient to turn Merrimon into a 2-lane road, then build dedicated turn lanes in the middle. This would eliminate the constant weaving back and forth as vehicles dangerously attempt to go around the left turners.

Eric Staford August 8, 2013 - 7:45 am

Great city planning! Lets push all the buildings to the sidewalk and take away any chance of ever installing a turning lane. What foresight. Drivers stay away!!

hauntedheadnc August 8, 2013 - 12:09 pm

I’m totally with you. The very last thing we should ever want when a city grows, is for it to grow up looking like it’s most desirable district. More of Asheville following the same development patterns that gave us downtown and West Asheville? I can’t imagine anything so dreadful. What we need, obviously is more parts of town looking like Airport Road, Tunnel Road, and West Patton — you know, those parts of town that everyone loves and which the tourists just pour in to see because they’re just that darned lovely.

Scott August 7, 2013 - 11:19 pm

Yes, there is a solution. On a street with a lot of traffic, numerous side streets, that already moves pretty slowly, with no turn lane, the solution is roundabouts. Period.

But since we all know that’s not going to happen, because apparently “Yield to the left” is too difficult of a concept, I’m going with “avoid at all costs.”

weavervilleman August 7, 2013 - 10:05 pm

They could have installed a roundabout.

FDR August 8, 2013 - 2:30 pm


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