West Jefferson’s ‘Streetscape’ recognized by Smart Growth America report

Wil Petty

June 2, 2014

The downtown West Jefferson “Streetscape” is receiving national recognition after being featured in the 2014 “Dangerous by Design” report presented by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition.

In the report, released by Smart Growth America on May 20, West Jefferson is shown in a positive light, with the report saying “A series of low-cost safety improvements helped convert (West Jefferson) to a destination that encourages residents and tourists alike to stroll, linger and patronize local businesses.”

According to the report, the changes helped promote a “downtown renaissance,” and mentioned the decrease of vacant storefronts and the amount of crashes in the community decreasing 30 percent. Tourism in the community has also increased 19 percent since the street scape was implemented.

The report said West Jefferson worked with the N.C. Department of Transportation to make the changes on Jefferson Avenue, which included eliminating two traffic signals, making crosswalks more visible, placing benches and planting trees.

“For many years, the state highway (N.C. 194) that serves as the main street of West Jefferson, a mountain town of 1,300 in northwestern North Carolina, was designed more for the passage of large trucks than to support town life,” according to the report.

In addition, the AARP, Inc., the American Society of Landscape Architects and America Walks also helped with the report.

Other towns the publication used as examples were: Albuquerque, N.M., Phoenix, Seattle and Solana Beach, Calif.

North Carolina findings

According to the data “Dangerous by Design” provided, North Carolina ranks No. 9 in pedestrian danger. Between 2003 and 2012, North Carolina had 1,683 pedestrian deaths.

Florida was ranked No. 1, while the border states of Georgia (No. 5) and South Carolina (No. 4) were in the top 10. Tennessee was ranked No. 11 while Virginia was ranked No. 22.

When it came to state pedestrian fatalities among persons aged 65 or older between 2003 and 2010, North Carolina was then ranked No. 37 out of the 50 states and District of Columbia. Of the border states, Virginia was ranked No. 29, Georgia No. 31, South Carolina No. 33 and Tennessee No. 42.

Within large metro areas in the nation, the Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord metro ranked No. 31 and Raleigh-Cary metro ranked No. 35 with the highest percentage of pedestrian traffic deaths between 2003 and 2012.

When applying the pedestrian danger index, which gives an indication of the likelihood of a person on foot being hit by a vehicle and killed, the Charlotte metro was ranked No. 10 and Raleigh metro was ranked No. 16.

According to the report, “47,025 people died while walking on (American) streets. That’s 16 times the number of Americans who died in natural disasters… over the last 10 years.”

In addition, the report said 676,000 were injured during that time frame.

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Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.