Asheville Design Center to review altered plan

Modifications made by an outside engineering firm in collaboration with the N.C. Department of Transportation may have rendered the Asheville Design Center’s I-26 Connector plan “bloated and complicated,” says Michael McDonough, one of the center’s founding members.

The group of architects plans to meet on Saturday to review changes to the plan they originally submitted in 2007 as a response to the DOT’s ideas for the interchange. The proposed I-26 Connector in Asheville includes upgrading approximately 2.5 miles of existing I-240 from the I-26/I-240 interchange with I-40 to the I-240 interchange with Patton Avenue, west of the French Broad River. The connector includes the length now spanned by the Smoky Park Bridge.

Preliminary review by members of the Asheville Design Center shows their plan may have become modified beyond recognition, with I-26 now passing above Patton Ave. rather than below, and as much as 16 lanes wide.

Dubbed alternate 4-B, the original plan was submitted by the design center an alternative to the Department of Transportation’s visions for the connector.

Late last year, Buncombe County and the City of Asheville contracted with a Tallahassee-based engineering firm to tinker with the proposal and address some concerns aired by the DOT. Then in January, Asheville City Council voted 6-1 to adopt the altered plan.

But alterations to the plan continued to take place after January, McDonough says. “We see some significant shifts from our original vision for this alternate,” he said. “I use the word devolution.”

The group will review the plans at its Patton Avenue office on Saturday. McDonough suspects there will be an official statement sometime next week along with further details of the extent of the design’s modifications.

The road work has been discussed for nearly 20 years. Construction is slated to begin in 2013, according to the DOT, and could cost more than $360 million.

Brian Postelle, staff writer

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