Asheville group issues statement in opposition to I-26 Connector resolution


Here’s the statement, sent along by Julie Mayfield, who is co-director of the WNC Alliance and a member of the “working group” of local officials who have been working the Interstate 26 Connector issue. Buncombe County commissioners are scheduled to vote on the resolution at their meeting tonight, March 18:

I-26 ConnectUs Project Statement on I-26 Prioritization

The I-26 ConnectUs Project is made up of representatives from the Asheville neighborhoods that stand to be most impacted by the I-26 Connector Project, including West Asheville, Burton Street, and Montford. The group is convened by the Western North Carolina Alliance. We have been working together since 2009. All participants agree that the unfinished portion of I-26 as it passes through Buncombe County should be completed in a timely way.

The I-26 ConnectUs Project members are unable to support the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (DOT) request for the City of Asheville and Buncombe County to endorse an alternative for Section B of the I-26 Connector Project at this time. We recognize that the new, state level funding prioritization process is underway and that the project may rank higher in that process if the least expensive alternative is analyzed. However, we believe it is premature to ask the City and County to endorse an alternative prior to the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and a full understanding of the relative impacts and benefits of each alternative. Endorsing the least expensive alternative at this point, even for the limited purpose of prioritization, creates a very real risk that our community will be locked into that alternative in the future even if the EIS reveals another alternative is more beneficial.

If, however, adoption of a resolution in support of the least expensive alternative, Alternative 3C, is the best way to ensure that the project remains viable, we ask that the City and County be mindful of the following issues:

 That Alternative 3C, as currently designed, does not meet the City’s long range plans;

 That the resolution is for the limited purposes of prioritization and does not reflect an endorsement of a final alternative, which will be made only after completion of the EIS and public hearings;

 That the EIS should include infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians in all alternatives, consistent with the City of Asheville’s master plans;

 That the City and County work with DOT to create benefits for those communities that stand to be impacted the most by this project;

 That if a final, preferred alternative is selected that does not remove highway traffic from the Jeff Bowen Bridges, that the City and County advocate for a new project that would allow Patton Avenue and the bridges to become a continuous boulevard from West Asheville into downtown; and

 That the City and County continue seeking to work with DOT and the Federal Highway Administration to identify options to reduce the footprint of the project, including utilizing design exceptions and context sensitive design, and conducting a new traffic study.


Knight March 23, 2014 - 12:14 am

I do not think many will disagree the Interstate 26 connector is long overdue for completion. It is build it now or wait to pay more later to build it.

Drake March 19, 2014 - 1:44 pm

It is tough line to walk. We can’t be obstructionist, but asking for a design that has been fully vetted doesn’t seem unreasonable. It is certainly not a NIMBY thing, it is more of a IYAGTPTIOBYPDSWATD, “If you are going to put this in our back yard please do so with a thoughtful design” thing.

I think this is a fair statement, good job Julie.

indy March 18, 2014 - 12:27 pm

The is the more clever breed of NIMBY. Pretends to be supportive, and then there is always a but…

Mike March 18, 2014 - 12:22 pm

oh bother! Rabble rabble, me me me, rabble rabble. Stomp stomp, wine.

Rich March 18, 2014 - 9:33 pm

I guess I’d say the same thing about anyone who races to post “NIMBY!” on an article about citizen engagement with developers.

AVL LVR March 18, 2014 - 11:01 am

I like the statement:

That if a final, preferred alternative is selected that does not remove highway traffic from the Jeff Bowen Bridges, that the City and County advocate for a new project that would allow Patton Avenue and the bridges to become a continuous boulevard from West Asheville into downtown;

Right now Patton Avenue is lost in the maze of highway. Let it be its own road. As for I-240, swing it west of Patton Avenue and West Asheville crossing New Leicester HWY (RT 63). It will terminate at I-40 somewhere west of Smokey Park HWY. That will ease traffic on I-26 and give it its own separate road.

Realist March 18, 2014 - 11:34 am

I’m unable to envision how this option is feasible? An interstate running north of Smokey Park, through Emma, Green Hill, and Pisgah View? Has this route been proposed anywhere?

orulz March 18, 2014 - 11:32 pm

A western bypass route was considered for the first few years of the project, starting in 1989. By 1993 it was clear that the local government did not want it, and in 1995 it was officially dropped from consideration.

orulz March 18, 2014 - 11:37 am

What is the point of turning Patton Avenue into a boulevard heading downtown? It would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to do this. Patton Avenue downtown would then be connected to the unwalkable mess of Patton Avenue to the west of the river by a beautiful boulevard, but the unwalkable mess would remain an unwalkable mess.

West Asheville already has a nice walkable corridor: Haywood Road. Trying to convert Patton Avenue into another one is hopeless. Too much traffic. It always has been and always will be a massive auto sewer of a highway.

Those hundreds of millions of dollars could be much better spent on other projects, like the rest of the I-26 connector, or the Asheville passenger trains ervice.

AVL LVR March 18, 2014 - 3:04 pm

The I-240 extension west of Patton Ave will take traffic off of it. A bicycle-pedestrian path will make the Patton Ave bridge more walkable.

Trains/metros are good in highly dense urban areas like Washington DC- NYC megalopolis. Asheville has only around 90,000 people. There are no other major cities around to connect to. Greenville, SC converted their train tracks to the Swamp Rabbit Trail (rails to trails). Other cities will get high speed rail before we do.

Jason W. March 18, 2014 - 11:09 pm

You do realize that Patton Ave runs East-West right? I think you mean I 240 should run North of Patton Ave.
Also are you familiar with the terrain in that area? It’s mostly steep rolling hills. This option would be nigh impossible.

AVL LVR March 19, 2014 - 8:55 am

Highways can blast through mountains (Beaucatcher Mountain and I-81 through all of Pennsylvania). They have no problem going through hills. I-240 West will form an arc nearly equidistant around Patton Ave to its north and west. From downtown, it will follow 70 north until it crosses the French Broad on or north of the new I-26 connector. It will proceed north and then southwest crossing New Leicester HWY and terminating somewhere west of where Monte Vista Road connects with I-40.

Additionally, the I-240 extension south of Asheville will begin in east Asheville where Charlotte Highway meets I-40. Charlotte HWY (74A Alt) will be upgraded to I-240. It will proceed south until it meets Cane Creek Road which will also be upgraded to I-240 S. It will terminate in Fletcher somewhere near the airport on I-26.

orulz March 18, 2014 - 11:38 pm

This so called Alternative 3C has plenty of problems, but combining Patton Avenue and I-240 traffic isn’t really one of them.

Passenger Rail service means connecting Asheville to Salisbury and thence to Raleigh/Charlotte via conventional trains. This was considered but then put on hold indefinitely because of the cost ($150 million or so) of improvements to the Norfolk Southern rail line.

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