West Asheville activist: I-26 push unwise

From West Asheville activist Steve Rasmussen:

My name is Steve Rasmussen, and I’m a participant in the I26 ConnectUs group. Yes, let’s fix the bridge. But let’s do it smart. Asheville needs MORE greenway, LESS freeway. This is the 21st century now, not the 20th. In the last century, “progress” was the catchword that justified every massive roadbuilding project in our state regardless
of its impact on our environment and communities. Today, as we’re facing urban sprawl, pollution-induced climate change, lack of public transportation, and other consequences of putting profit before planet and people, “sustainability” has to be our watchword for surviving and thriving into the future. And long-range sustainability of our environment, our communities, and our local businesses is the basis of Asheville’s 2025 Master Plan.

Unfortunately the regional DOT division engineer recently told our group he’s never even looked at the 2025 plan. And the main priority of the state legislature’s so-called new Strategic Mobility Formula is still the 20th-century one of ramming ever more freight traffic through our state at ever higher speeds, which will bypass our local businesses and benefit only big corporations that have their sights set on transshipping more goods and jobs overseas.

All the Section B alternatives DOT is proffering us for the I26 Connector Project still hinge on blasting 8 to 10 lanes through West Asheville in Section A. They still involve massively overengineered structures that violate our local plans. Alt 3C does not even fully separate interstate from local traffic — it still combines I240 with
Patton Avenue traffic. In 25 years, DOT has still not done an Environmental Impact Study for any of its perpetually retreaded proposals.

The last traffic study for this project was done in 2008. In the wake of the recession, auto travel nationwide has been declining as people commute less, teenagers socialize on smartphones rather than in cars, and forward-looking communities direct federal and state infrastructure funding into multimodal transportation, which by the
way generates 70% more jobs than building new roads and freeways, according to a recent Smart Growth America study*. Recent traffic statistics at the Tennessee border suggest that our regional traffic is also declining.

But the Catch-22 is, no traffic study will be done for this I26 expansion until it’s already been approved. Even then, will it incorporate these factors, or will it be geared toward justifying a massive pork-barrel project for the construction and developer lobbyists who dominate Raleigh? Perhaps we need to do our own independent traffic analysis just to find out what we really need as opposed to what APAC and Tim Moffitt say we need.

I’ve heard impatient freeway advocates claim we have a mountain saying, “Just git ‘er done.” I’d counter that with a wiser, more prudent mountain saying: “Measure twice, cut once.”


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