The North Carolina Department of Transportation has modified the Alternative 3 plan for the Interstate 26 connector. The new plan, if adopted, would demolish fewer homes — seven instead of 25 — in the predominantly African-American Burton Street neighborhood.
DOT also modified the Alternative 4b plan, developed by the Asheville Design Center to minimize the impact on the surrounding area and allow more downtown-style development, to take two homes in the Burton Street Area instead of six. The ADC’s original plans called for no homes to be eliminated in the Burton Street area, and the center’s president, Joe Minicozzi, has expressed his frustration with changes made by the department.
“We’re in the process of refining the designs, and we got far along enough to do this last week,” DOT Division Control Engineer Rick Tipton told Xpress. “This is a change we could make.”
Alternatives 3 and 4b have each attracted their defenders in the community. Asheville City Council has endorsed 4b, while the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners endorsed Alternative 3. DOT is still studying and modifying all the alternatives, including two others that haven’t attracted the same levels of support in the community. Alternative 3 would take the most homes — 43 after the revisions — but its proponents have touted decreased driving times, lower estimated building costs and a reduced impact on the Montford neighborhood as its strong points.
At a Jan. 28 debate on the issue, Chamber CEO Rick Lutovsky said that the chamber was communicating with DOT to reduce the chamber’s favored plan’s impact on the Burton Street area.
As devised by the department, both plans would still leave neighborhood residents facing a sound wall, Tipton confirmed.
A trailer park in the Emma area would also be uprooted under Alternative 3, and no changes have been made on that front yet.
“We’re still looking at all the alternatives to better refine them,” Tipton said. “The Buncombe County commissioners had let us know there was a lot of concern about the effect on this area [Burton Street].”
— David Forbes, staff writer