Design center partners with Burton Street, WNC Alliance on I-26 forum

The Asheville Design Center, the Burton Street Neighborhood Association and the WNC Alliance are organizing a March 9 neighborhood tour and forum concerning the four competing designs for the controversial Interstate 26 connector.

“Folks in the Burton Street community, because there’s such an impact on their neighborhood, had wanted to know more about the various alternatives and the process the [state Department of Transportation] is going through,” said Design Center Executive Director Chris Joyell. “That process isn’t the most transparent, and as we continued on, we realized that these impacts include a lot more than Burton Street. They include Emma, possibly Montford too.”

Two of the design options have drawn the most support from various factions of the community. alternative 3 would demolish eight homes in the Burton Street area—mostly along Fayetteville Street—and leave others facing a large sound wall. It would also displace 30 homes in an Emma trailer park.

Alternative 3 has been endorsed by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and—narrowly—by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. Proponents say it would reduce driving times, cost less to build and be more aesthetically pleasing.

The other favored option, alternative 4b, was created by the Design Center with an eye toward separating local and interstate traffic, opening up more areas for downtown-style development and reducing the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. This option would require less land than any of the other alternatives.

The Asheville City Council endorsed 4b on a 6-1 vote.

But the DOT has extensively modified the independently produced design, and it would now require the demolition of two homes in the Burton Street area.

The forum will consider both the project’s timeline and the various alternatives’ impacts on the area. The Design Center is trying to arrange a similar event in Montford, said Joyell, and future forums in other neighborhoods are also possible.

“We’re not 100 percent behind 4b,” he said. “There’s some mutations the DOT made that we’re not happy with. If we’re going to change those, we need to get the information out there and get the community’s support.”

The DOT is expected to indicate its preferred option this summer, said Joyell, though the announcement will be followed by a comment period during which further modifications may be made. The final design will most likely be chosen next year, and construction is slated to begin in 2013.

The neighborhood tour will begin at 5:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church, 170 Fayetteville St.; the forum will be held at the church starting at 6:30 p.m.

To view documents related to the I-26 project, go to www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles.

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