When the Asheville Design Center first proposed the idea of I-26 connector alternative 4B, the idea was to run the highway beneath Patton Avenue as a way of separating highway and local traffic and to encourage a boulevard connection from West Asheville to downtown (shown in the illustration here, provided by the ADC). But when the North Carolina Department of Transportation returned with their version of the plan, the design had been flipped, with the connector flying over Patton Avenue.
Now, the department says it will reconsider a design that has I-26 back below Patton.
“This was big for us,” says ADC representative Alan McGuinn. “I would say the DOT is certainly working with us to make 4B the best it can be.”
McGuinn noted that 4B had lost some community support after it had been changed by DOT consultants, who initially said they could not design I-26 beneath Patton Avenue and still maintain federal highway standards. The recent change, revealed in a meeting with DOT representatives earlier this month, will help assuage that criticism, McGuinn said. “This will help to build more consensus in the community,” he said.
DOT Design Engineer Jay Swain told Xpress that the consultants working on connector alternatives initially were unable to make the under-Patton design meet regulations. But given more time, they were able to make it work. “The city and county pushed on it,” Swain said. “We heard this as being a desire and we asked our consultants to work on it.”
The updated design would cost $279 million instead of the previously estimated $292 million, according to Swain. Two other alternatives in the running would cost $232 million and $165 million.
Swain said the DOT will conduct more public input and information sessions in the spring before a decision is made next summer on which alternative to construct.
Meanwhile, McGuinn said, there are still details worth pursuing on the DOT’s version of 4B, including design features that will save more houses and have less impact on neighborhoods near the connector.
— Brian Postelle, staff writer