For more than two decades, a myth has evolved that an east-west expressway just north of Hendersonville would relieve congestion on Four Seasons Boulevard. This myth originated back in the days of the “Clear Creek Connector,” which the Time-News reported in 2003 was “long sought by business leaders to relieve congestion on Four Seasons Boulevard.”
That myth persists to this very day. Many people believe the Balfour Parkway, which the Henderson County Board of Commissioners wisely voted to cancel, would have relieved congestion on Four Seasons Boulevard. However, a thorough examination of NCDOT documents reveals that the Balfour Parkway would have done no such thing.
Indeed, all that NCDOT was willing to concede was “a potential reduction in the volume of traffic (including heavy trucks) traveling through downtown Hendersonville.”
But even that equivocal claim has been refuted by a rigorous analysis of NCDOT’s own traffic data by local retired engineer Bill Burchill, who stated that congestion on Four Seasons Boulevard “is due to ‘local’ traffic, not ‘east-west through’ traffic” and that “only a small fraction (1-2 percent) of traffic on Four Seasons Boulevard is due to ‘heavy trucks’ and these trucks are not ‘east-west through traffic.’ ”
In other words, the Balfour Parkway would not have relieved this congestion because most of the vehicular traffic on Four Seasons Boulevard is “local traffic” and not “through traffic.”
Anyone who has driven on U.S. 64 east of downtown Hendersonville must realize that the primary cause of congestion on Four Seasons Boulevard is not “east-west through traffic,” or too many “heavy trucks,” but rather the presence of five eastbound and six westbound traffic lights between Dana Road (near Lowe’s) and Interstate 26’s exit 49 — all within a span of only 8/10ths of a mile.
The congestion caused by those closely spaced traffic lights can reduce the average speed on that short span to less than 15 mph — nearly four minutes of driving time — even in light traffic and with few trucks present, which is significantly slower than the average speed west of Dana Road, where drivers routinely exceed the posted 45 mph speed limit. It is even worse during rush hour. Can anyone deny these facts?
The fact that most of the traffic on Four Seasons Boulevard is “local” and not “east-west through traffic,” coupled with traffic lights at every intersection between Dana Road and Exit 49, leads to the obvious conclusion that congestion on Four Seasons Boulevard is entirely a local problem, originating from local sources, and one that therefore requires a local solution.
At the May 3 Hendersonville City Council meeting, I proposed a possible solution to the Four Seasons congestion problem that called for reducing the number of traffic lights on Four Seasons from six to two — the first at Dana Road and the second near the I-26 interchange. The key to this solution is to block all cross-street access to Four Seasons Boulevard between those two lights by diverting all local traffic to back streets, thereby devoting Four Seasons Boulevard to through traffic only.
Making this happen would require building six short roads to connect existing roads on both sides of Four Seasons, widening the southbound I-26 exit and entrance ramps, and making two extant roads one way to link with the I-26 ramps. Doing so would redirect shoppers, restaurant patrons and delivery trucks onto back streets and off Four Seasons Boulevard, which would be reserved for through traffic only.
Congestion on Four Seasons Boulevard is a city of Hendersonville problem that no NCDOT highway project can solve. As a local problem with local causes, congestion on Four Seasons Boulevard must be addressed by the city, its planning board and its elected officials.
Myths are false facts widely believed. It is time to dispense with this myth — that an east-west expressway north of Hendersonville will relieve congestion on Four Seasons Boulevard – once and for all.
Bill Erickson is a Hendersonville resident.