Over the past few weeks, N.C. Department of Transportation officials have showed local officials a new alternative connector route. It is the cheapest option and has the least impact on neighborhoods, but it does not achieve a critical end – separating local traffic from interstate through-traffic. Yet is is the one that local officials are considering supporting. Here’s a link to the newly posted I-26 Connector map of the route, labeled 3c, that local officials are supporting.
Below, find a copy of the resolution that Buncombe County commissioners will consider at their next meeting on March 18.
WHEREAS, traffic congestion and safety are increasing problems along 1‐240 and I‐26 through Asheville, a critical route for regional commerce and tourism; and
WHEREAS, local and regional residents, visitors, interstate travelers and commercial freight haulers rely on this route in ever increasing numbers; and
WHEREAS, improvements to the I‐240 and I‐26 corridor should be minimally disruptive to the local community and should enhance the quality of life for residents and visitors wherever possible; and
WHEREAS, North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) in its planning of TIP Project I‐2513 (the project), has indicated preliminary commitment to alternatives that, compared to earlier proposals, reduce relocation of homes and businesses, reduce sound impact through better deployment of sound walls and provide critically needed bicycle, pedestrian and neighborhood connectivity infrastructure consistent with local government master plans; and
WHEREAS, the NCDOT and the Federal Highway Administration have expressed openness to consider design alternatives that reduce scale and cost of the project, including the number of lanes required, should upcoming traffic demand studies warrant and justify reductions; and
WHEREAS, in the event that the selected design alternative does not include modifications to the I‐240 infrastructure on the east side of the French Broad River to support urban redevelopment, improved connection of neighborhood, and improvements to local traffic patterns; local governments will evaluate a separate future project through the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization (FBRMPO) to address those concerns; and
WHEREAS, various detailed alternatives for design and implementation of the project are to be fully evaluated and provided to decision makers for formal consideration, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act in the Environmental Impact Statement, in the coming months; and local leaders, working rough the FBRMPO, can only then provide their final endorsement of any alternative; and
WHEREAS, the City of Asheville, in its five‐year capital improvement plan, has designated $1 million in co‐funding for the project to support critically needed community‐connectivity features; and
WHEREAS, members of the community have expressed their strong preference that the project soon be funded and constructed in a way that solves current congestion and safety problems while mitigating negative project impacts and addressing community needs; and
WHEREAS, NCDOT is conducting preliminary cost benefit evaluations of similar projects statewide under the Strategic Prioritization Process to establish specifically which projects will be eligible for near‐term funding of design and construction under the recently adopted Strategic Mobility Formula.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Board of Commissioners for the County of Buncombe and the City Council of the City of Asheville, as follows:
1. That the Board of Commissioners for the County of Buncombe and the Asheville City Council, along with the FBRMPO, hereby recommend that for the purpose of the upcoming scoring and ranking process, NCDOT use the estimated cost of $230 million associated with the preliminary 3c alignment alternative for the B section of the project; and, in preparation of the draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project, NCDOT clearly include elements that will address community needs for sound barriers and bicycle, pedestrian and neighborhood connections, including location design and the funding methodology of associated infrastructure elements.
2. That this resolution be effective upon its adoption.