LETTERS / The Heart Attack of Boone

Published Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 4:23 pm

Dear Editor and Town of Boone Officials,

While the above [title] may seem somewhat melodramatic, it certainly is a good analogy for the traffic study (or lack thereof) and recommendation for improvements on Howard Street.

Having lived and worked in downtown Boone for over 38 years and having offices, apartments & commercial space at the corner of Howard & Appalachian streets, I feel uniquely qualified to refute the current traffic study commissioned by the town. Back in the old days when people had heart trouble we called it hardening of the arteries (limited blood flow through its pathways being minimized or cut off). This analogy is precisely what seems to be happening every so often in Boone beginning with the condemnation of two way traffic on Bear trail and the dead ending of Howard street at the ASU parking deck.

Now we have a traffic study which has determined that restricting more blood flow can help the heart patient. Instead of creating more roadway options in our already restricted downtown (like working with ASU to extend Appalachian St. to Rivers Street,  an idea endorsed by the Lawrence Group back in 2008, or reopening Bear Trail and Howard Streets to let the blood flow) we are eliminating roadways, “hardening the arteries”, increasing the inevitable cardiac arrest.

Besides the general concerns of ELIMINATING more roadway options; making Appalachian & Howard Streets one way could have a dramatic affect for our traffic flow downtown.

I have reviewed the traffic study and overall proposed plan. There are many concerns that I would like you all to consider:

There are two fundamental flaws of this study:

  1. There is no analysis of trips made into or out of the Raley Parking lot from App / Howard St. (page 13, figure 3 and page 22 figure 6).
  1. There is no Analysis of the increase in trips turning south from King Street (both directions) onto Appalachian Street (page 35). The analysis only shows the northern consequences, which of course, improves because the traffic is totally eliminated.

Aside from the general concern of condemning yet another roadway artery in an already over congested area of Downtown Boone; my biggest fear has always been the effect on King Street traffic at Appalachian & Depot Streets from the ingress and egress of the Raley Parking lot……and the other parking lots on Howard. The most critical part of this proposal was not even analyzed by the traffic study!

Let me paint the picture for you. If you have ever been on the corner of Howard and Appalachian Streets between 8-10 am on a weekday you will notice an existing bottleneck at the entrance of the Raley parking lot as motorists fumble with their swipe cards to get into the lot (average of 30 seconds per car) causing a current backup on Appalachian Street and Howard street. The plan proposed, advocates making

Appalachian Street the ONLY access to Howard St and thus the Raley Parking lot on the north side of the

Lot. This will double or perhaps even triple the amount of trips one way on Appalachian Street. The analysis we need is what affect  that will have on King Street traffic. Will it back up in the already narrow left turning lane across from Boone Saloon coming west?……  and right turning lane in front of Jimmy Johns heading east? I see no such data in the report.

Conversely, what will be the effect when Raley empty’s out during rush hour on Depot / King St?

Its conceivable there will be major backups at Depot Street from the exodus of all the Howard St. lots  having only one choice of departure (west).  A traffic light installed at Depot/ Howard Street will only exacerbate the already existing problem and has the potential to backup traffic on King Street, grinding it to a halt.  While some of the statistics of the study were performed during a home football game, there was no data compiled of the Raley parking lot exodus (the most important factor on this day).

It’s obviously been tough to serve on the town council over the last decade or two, given the political climate and our ever widening “borderline personality disorder” when it comes to politics and achieving things for the common good. I realize council members are frustrated with the lack of progress on Howard Street in particular, and in spite of their willingness and hard work (by some) to put a feasible plan together, feel thwarted by its lack of progress. I submit to you that the attitude of “achieving anything” is NOT better than nothing. It’s a beautiful plan, very glamorizing when you are on the outside looking in but the fundamental question is, how will this affect the overall frustration level of downtown auto commuters, shoppers etc. This proposal literally ELIMINATES  25% of our “blood flow”.

There is no question that Howard Street is an aesthetic nightmare but please do not make it a functional one as well. Now that we have a new town attorney and manager (and threat of making the entire street one way) isn’t it time to revisit TRUE negotiations with the Howard Street stakeholders? Pay the FEW holdouts market value for their lost parking spaces or offer them reciprcal parking somewhere else. Maintain the functionality of the street while working towards a rational solution.

If the town and ASU have liability concerns for pedestrian traffic (90% of which are ASU students walking back to their apartments), build a more formal sidewalk right where it is now in the interim,  but don’t cut off yet another one of our valuable, retail, arteries. After all, the retail traffic on the street is 95% auto, not walking pedestrian. What is the priority? Retail customers or ASU students? Both are of course, but we can, or at least should, work together and focus on each in a rational way, not excluding one or the other.

In closing I’ll say this……… If my heart Doctor came to me and said “you have hardening of the arteries but we know how to fix it……we are going to just cut one of them out and let all your blood flow through one vein”……I would have to wonder where he got his advice from.

Respectfully,

Fulton Lovin

PS……For the record, this is not a “not in my backyard syndrome”, as is so frequently encountered by these types of conflicts. The traffic in front of my business will probably triple, making it more valuable (perhaps??).  My fear is that the whole heart of Boone will be affected and we will all stroke out.

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