The Asheville Design Center recently met with the N.C. Department of Transportation to discuss progress on the I-26 connector. The group emerged with news on the status of the alternative 4B it championed for the project. Among those revelations is a shortened, less expensive bridge and the news that noise studies indicates 4B will be quieter than other plans.
The report from the ADC is below.
Community Efforts Improve Alt 4B!
NCDOT Design Improvements for Alternative 4B Benefit Montford and Saves Money
For immediate release:
ADC volunteers, neighborhood residents, concerned citizens and city officials collaborate with NCDOT Engineers to refine the design of Alternative 4b that now only runs under Patton Avenue. The resulting revisions to the proposed alternative shorten the elevated highway over existing 19/23 and provide a possible link from a Montford Greenway to the proposed Wilma Dykeman Riverway. The improvements to the design reduce the highway’s impact on the Montford Community while reducing the cost of construction.
Asheville, NC March 10, 2010 – Concerned citizens working with members of the I-26 Technical Review Committee (I-26 TRC) that represent the City of Asheville, Buncombe County and the Asheville Design Center, recently met with NCDOT Engineers to discuss the feasibility of further improvements they had proposed in October 2009 for the design of the I-26 connector, Alternative 4b.
This Alternative was recently developed with input from the community as an urban response to the important highway link that crosses the French Broad River at Asheville’s western gateway.
The significant items discussed in the meeting by the TRC that are important to advocates of 4b include:
• Provide a design that allows Patton Avenue to serve as a multi-modal (automobile, pedestrian, bike and mass transit) connection to West Asheville
• Redesign the I-240 connecting ramp along Hill Street in Montford to save five houses.
• Minimize noise impacts on the Montford community
• Reducing the length of the elevated highway over 19/23 along Riverside Drive
• Provide direct access from the Hillcrest community to the proposed Patton Boulevard.
• Improved Aesthetics for the design of the French Broad River Bridge and elevated portions of the highway.
NCDOT representative Derrick Weaver confirmed:
• Alternative 4b will now only include a design option with the I-26 connector running under Patton Avenue. The previous over-Patton design is no longer considered an alternative. This decision addresses the concerns of residents and local organizations that the highway would create an unwelcoming visual barrier to the proposed Patton Boulevard.
• At the request of the community, NCDOT engineers have redesigned Alternative 4B to significantly reduce the length of the elevated highway over 19/23 along Riverside Drive.
• Due to community efforts to improve the design of Alternative 4B, there is a construction cost savings of $30 Million for Alternative 4b, possibly more.
• From the preliminary sound study information provided, Alternative 4b had 29 fewer sound related impacts than Alternative 3 and 57 fewer impacts than Alternative 4. These impacts can potentially be lowered during final design.
• There is a possibility of a greenway connection from the Montford neighborhood to the Wilma Dykeman Riverway Master Plan if the City includes the connection in Greenway Master Plan.
• The 1-26 ROW area acquired for the bridge on the east side of the river can be used for the Riverside Park as shown on the Wilma Dykeman Riverway Master Plan. Cathy Ball, PE, Director of Public Works, City of Asheville, confirmed this can be done thru an existing process the City and NCDOT have in place to use NCDOT ROW as City-maintained parks.
• In Alternatives 4 and 4B, NCDOT has re-aligned I-26 to reduce impacts on historic properties
• Alternative 2 has been deleted as an option and will not be considered further.
• Alternative 3 has not been modified by NCDOT since the plans shared at the October 2009 meeting.
NCDOT plans to have the alternatives and the draft supplemental EIS completed by Summer 2010. The public hearing is currently scheduled for the summer of 2010. At the public hearing NCDOT will provide updated visualizations of all alternatives and examples of bridges with various bridge pier types. The preferred alternative will be selected in the fall, following receipt of comments form the public hearing. NCDOT representatives agreed that community support for a preferred alternative will be a key factor in the final selection. After the preferred alternative is selected, project engineers will work to refine and complete the final connector design. NCDOT officials said these refinements could include further consideration of the impacts to Hill Street homes, a Patton Avenue connection to Hillcrest, the bridge aesthetic and the number of lanes required can be further studied during the final design process of the preferred alternative
Stephanie Pankiewicz a landscape architect and TRC member says “We greatly appreciate the collaborative spirit of this meeting with NCDOT and their willingness to continue to improve the design. This is an on-going process and we are steadily working down the list of community concerns together.”