Following are my seven reasons to stop the Balfour Parkway Project:
1. The N.C. Department of Transportation states that the primary purpose of the Balfour Parkway is “to improve east-west vehicular mobility (in Hendersonville).” Is this really needed? NCDOT claims that it is due to a significant level of east-west “through” traffic, even “large truck” through traffic. These claims are specific to Four Seasons Boulevard (N.C. 64), Asheville Highway (U.S. 25 business) and Haywood Road (N.C. 191).
However, it is easily observed that a negligible number of vehicles travel “through” on this route. Who really thinks that lots of vehicles travel from Chimney Rock to Mills River or vice versa?
2. NCDOT claims (relative to the three connected road segments) that the Balfour Parkway will relieve traffic congestion in downtown Hendersonville. Will it? No.
A careful analysis of congestion in each of these locations easily demonstrates that it is almost entirely due to local traffic, not through traffic. Much of the congestion is due to intermittent local conditions, e.g., the timing of consecutive traffic lights, traffic loads during schools’ openings and closings, and trucks making local deliveries. Thus, the Balfour Parkway will not relieve congestion.
3. Even if there is a desire, if not a need, to “improve east-west vehicular mobility,” the Balfour Parkway is much more expensive than several alternatives. Projects that NCDOT is either considering or that are already underway include improvements to Howard Gap Road, Brookside Camp Road and Haywood Road. Taken together, these and Mountain Road offer significantly less expensive east-west mobility.
Another alternative being proposed by a local engineer is a new connector from Mills River to Fletcher; it, too, is much less expensive than the Balfour Parkway.
4. The impact that building the Balfour Parkway will have on property values, homes and people’s lives is huge! By NCDOT’s own estimate, as many as 440 homes are under the footprint of even one of the Balfour alternative routes. At a low estimate of $300,000 per home, that’s $132 million. But you’d be lucky to get half that in “eminent domain” settlements. And what about the roughly 800-plus homes immediately next to the route?
But the impact on people’s lives is the worst. Many under the footprint are retirees. Having their homes confiscated and their property bulldozed, and being forced to move again late in life, is not desirable.
5. Why is the Balfour Parkway “study area” (the area that contains the only alternative routes being considered by NCDOT) placed where it is? First, it adheres to a pencil sketch drawn by Jon Laughter during his 2003 campaign for City Council. Why, oh why, must we live with it now?
Second, as recently as November 2016, the NCDOT “Balfour Parkway Project Newsletter” showed a much larger “study area” that encompassed a large part of Hendersonville. Why isn’t that still being considered?
Third, now the “study area” is entirely outside Hendersonville city limits. So, ask City Council members. Of course, they don’t want it in their city!
6. Public communication about the Balfour Parkway by all agencies involved has been totally inadequate. When asked about this recently, NCDOT simply answered, “It’s on our website.” Do NCDOT and other government agencies think the public has been surfing the NCDOT website for the past 15 years, checking out highway projects?
When the public was finally properly notified of a Feb. 27 public meeting about the Balfour Parkway, more than 1,000 angry citizens showed up. According to the WLOS-TV evening news, this greatly surprised NCDOT!
7. The public has been given no role in the decisions that have been made about the Balfour Parkway. The public was given no notice until Feb. 27 that a “study area” even existed. The Jon Laughter pencil sketch has guided planning for 15 years, but the public was never notified that it was doing so. NCDOT does not make readily available how much has been spent so far on this project.
However, Henderson County commissioners oversee this on behalf of their constituents, the public. Ask your commissioner.
Bill Burchill is a Hendersonville resident.