The North Carolina Department of Transportation has revised the project alternatives for the I-26 Connector project in Asheville. Alternative 5, which would have crossed the French Broad River parallel to the Smoky Mountain Parkway, has been eliminated from further consideration due to operational concerns. Studies in progress on the other project alternatives are not affected.
“After preliminary designs were developed for Alternative 5, traffic studies showed that the proposal would not provide motorists a safe merging distance between the U.S. 19/23 and Montford Avenue interchanges and would generate additional congestion along the route,” said DOT Project Manager Vince Rhea. “These concerns have led us to discontinue studies on this alternative and continue moving forward studying other options.”
In a recent round of discussions with the city of Asheville and the Asheville Design Center, a local group of volunteer architects which has pitched its own solution to the I-26 puzzle, DOT has remained insistent that its designs are better. In 1997, the department determined that a new road would require eight lanes, and it remains committed to its plan despite two subsequent studies that showed original estimates to be in excess of actual traffic over the next few decades. The ADC plan requires about two-thirds of the pavement, four instead of nine bridges and substantially less land acquisition, but proponents of the DOT plans say that the local plan will slow completion of the job. Originally slated for completion in 2008, construction may now commence in 2012.
— Cecil Bothwell, staff writer