Image of the proposed “Alternative 3C” route of I-26 via NCDOT
The interstate construction plans have been debated for decades, but have gained new momentum in recent months after a new law overhauled how state transportation projects are funded. The NCDOT will rate projects for need and cost-benefits later this year. “What we’re trying to do is get a little bit of consensus so we can submit it to the state for scoring,” says Paul Black, director of the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization, a partnership between local and state government responsible for transportation planning.
The Buncombe County resolution backs the “Alternative 3C” plan, which would route I-26 across the French Broad River in a way that would be less invasive to Emma neighborhoods than previous plans, says Ricky Tipton, NCDOT construction engineer. The proposal only deals with I-26 construction, and at an estimated cost of $230 million, it’s less expensive than previous plans that also included major changes to I-240 and other interchanges. That could bump the construction up on the NCDOT’s list of state priorities, which it will finalize this fall, says Tipton. At the earliest, construction could begin in 2020, he says.
Meanwhile, the city of Asheville is also considering signing on to the county resolution, although consensus is yet to be reached on the exact recommendations, according to City Clerk Maggie Burleson. City Council will discuss the matter at its March 25 meeting.
The county resolution notes that before any final endorsement from local government agencies, further studies, including an Environmental Impact Statement, would need to be completed. It also asks the NCDOT to “include elements that will address community needs for sound barriers and bicycle, pedestrian and neighborhood connections.”
The NCDOT is planning a local public hearing in early May, although a specific date and location has not been set yet, says Tipton.
The French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization board will meet March 27 to discuss the matter.