It’s still standing: DOT resists alternative plan for I-26

The state Department of Transportation was steadfast in its recommendation that Asheville City Council abandon the Asheville Design Center’s proposal for the I-26 connector. But at its June 27 meeting, Council was not yet ready to give up hope on the plan that was devised by the volunteer efforts of local architects and engineers.

This was the DOT’s first official response since seeing the design last month.

Responding to a request by Council member Brownie Newman, city staff will even examine ways the city might assist the ADC in remedying compliance issues brought up by the DOT and the Federal Highway Administration. Just how far the city is willing to get involved — if at all — remains to be seen.

Look for full coverage of the Council meeting in the July 5 issue of Xpress.

— Brian Postelle, staff writer


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27 thoughts on “It’s still standing: DOT resists alternative plan for I-26

  1. Here’s a concept; let’s let the DOT build the bridge the way they want. I suspect they know a WHOLE lot more about it than Brownie Newman.

  2. orulz

    DOT knows how to do one thing. Build roads to carry a lot of vehicles. Think they give a crap about how it affects the city? Nope. Left to their own devices, EVERY TIME, they will build the road that carries the most vehicles within the allowed budget.

    DOT sometimes gets myopic about their overriding concern of vehicular capacity. There’s a lot more to transportation than that. Roads dictate how cities grow. And if roads are built thinking only about vehicular capacity, then we’re sure to grow into a rather hideous city.

    In addition, NCDOT did not do the ADC any favors in their analysis. Seems they followed the exact centerlines proposed by the ADC, rather than optimizing for fill volume, curvature, ugrades, or impacts. I wonder what they would come up with if they took the principal elements of a two-level bridge and reduced roadway length on the west side of the river, what they would come up with.

  3. Gee… “build roads to carry a lot of vehicles…” hmmm… now why didn’t Brownie Newman think of THAT.

    Let DOT do their job… and their job is to get the most vehicles through possible…. WE NEED THAT… we need it now. Ever tried to get through Malfunction Junction about 5 pm? Ever tried to get across Asheville on I-240 on Friday afternoon? We have a mighty serious traffic problem NOW. Extrapolate current trends a year or two down the road. WE CAN’T WAIT. Let DOT do their job, Brownie Newman’s great road engineering expertise aside.

  4. Also… we’re missing a huge point here. Interstate 26 is not being built for the City of Asheville, it’s for the traveling public. Asheville does not sit on some hilltop like the castle of a feudal robber baron, levying tolls for all who pass. Brownie Newman’s view and those of others in Asheville who would impede travelers is simply selfish, short-sighted, and detrimental in both the short and long term to the city and those of us who would freely sail the highways of America.

    It isn’t like Asheville PAYING for the road, we TAX PAYERS (most of us living outside Baron Newman’s little fiefdom) foot the bill.

    We want a road now.

    Say ‘good knight,’ Baron Brownie.

  5. orulz

    YOU want a road now, design and impacts be damned.

    I want the road done in a way that doesn’t screw the city over for a century. Even if that means spending more money on it, or postponing some other transportation projects, or waiting another year, or even two.

    And – guess what – I’m a tax payer too.

    And hey – why not separate Malfunction Junction from the rest of the 26 connector and build THAT one now? There’s virtually no disagreement about what needs to be done there or the impact it will have on the city.

  6. a) DOT has already designed the road.

    b) Asheville, which will have what, about 2 miles of several hundred miles of I-26 does not have the right to try and redesign at the last minute and hold the project up for years.

    c) This is a STATE not a local issue. My point is city council should butt out.

    I no problem with citizens of North Carolina who happen to live in Asheville seeking input… I have a BIG problem with City Council of one municipality meddling in a statewide issue and attempting to adversely affect the rights of the traveling public.

  7. author,

    i dont understand oyur postion here. do you consider yourself a resident of asheville? becasue, those of us who live here do think that putting a giant, ill-conceived freeway through the middle of our town is something we should be a bit concerned over. remember the first DOT plan that was to go right thorugh the middle of west asheville?
    as soomeone who does live downtown, i would really like to see a sesible plan, with local input. Any states DOt is notoriously beurocratic and self-serving. they build stupid, sometimes pointless roads just to use up their alloted budgets.
    why, exactly, do you think this ISNT an issue that should concern locals?

  8. Aliasjoe

    You’re right. DOT does design roads. But, by federal law, they have to work with local plans. This is the point of the Design Center, to advocate for local objectives which are all but absent from their proposals. Or if they are considered, it is in the most minimal way. Afterall, DOT are the folks that gave us an Interstate highway on a local road (see the Smoky Park Bridge) and it took the community clamoring for them to do something different back in 2000 for them to even consider changing that situation. Before we all jump to conclusions on anything, have you visited the Design Center to compare designs? Have you seen the presentations to see the details? The Design Center is open every Wednesday night from 5:30 – 7. I am a member of the Board that has been working on this and trying to facilitate a design that meets all of the DOT’s primary objectives WITH the community’s objectives. This is not easy, nor will the design be perfect. We have donated more than 2000 hours in the last year trying to help this situation and seek a solution. Swing by and check out the model to get a better understanding of the project and talk with someone that has been in the middle of all of this. Its more complex than “us vs. them” as we will be asked to spend close to $300 mill in taxes and the net affect of real estate to our tax base needs to be folded into this equation, which DOT has never considered. The decision is greater than the amount of asphalt that goes down or the design of a bridge, the decision has to do with the 500 acres of affect this close to our core of our city.

  9. sarad

    Do any of you remember when the center of Asheville was to be bulldozed for mall back in the late 70’s early 80’s
    It was a similar situation. Bureaucracy claimed they knew what was best for the community.

    It took a few well informed citizens to surround the area to be demolished with string and ribbon. After the majority of citizens realized the “real” impact of such a project through the visual protest did the momentum change. Good thing.

    Anyone reading this should check out the mock-up at he design center. The folks at the design center have nothing to gain.

    Author, what is it that you will gain should you get your way?

  10. Orbit DVD

    Gathering from author’s posts, he does not live in town but probably commutes. I’m sure if 8 lanes were coming one mile from his house (like mine), he would be whistling a different tune.


  11. JMAC


    Are you serious?

    Build the road for the rights of the “traveling public”?

    Driving is a privilege not a right.

    The local city government should be very instrumental in this design, that is very much part of there job description, to promote the health, safety and welfare of the people they represent.

    If I am not mistaken Brownie did not craft the alternative plan, he just used his name recognition to bring a group with a different approach into the picture. Thank you Brownie for caring about the city.

    The DOT is not some kind of design God, in fact they are the opposite. In all actuality the DOT will pass the design onto a private engineering consultant, that will then design the road to DOT specifications. DOT is famous for projects running over budget and way past deadlines with the end result often poor and inefficient design.

    The design team is made of architects and engineers in the private sector, we should thank them for donating there time. They just might save some of your precious tax dollars while possibly coming up with a better design solution that will probably be a better driving experience for the “Traveling Public” and fit into the fabric of Asheville.

    In short
    Sit in the minor traffic a little longer and wait for an appropriate design that works.

  12. jasc

    The ADC plan does BOTH: it is better for the community AND it moves traffic safely and smoothly through the city. It is not an either/or proposal. It does not create a “malfunction junction” — on either the thru portion of I-26 or I-240. It improves both by keeping local east-west traffic totally separate from both highways. All entrance and exit ramps to both highways merge from the right which makes the interchanges “user-intuitive” and safer, especially for visitors to the city who will be unfamiliar with the roads. Does the DOT-designed part of I-240 on the east side of the Beaucatcher cut do this? How many lane changes does the thru-town driver have to make to avoid getting caught in an exit-only lane?

    The beauty of the ADC plan is its simplicity.

    Both the city and the county leaders have expressed support for this plan. They recognize the benefits it offers. It also carries a lower price tag and if the DOT would make a good faith effort to include it into their process right away, it would not have to delay the project at all.

    There is no reason I can see why it shouldn’t be included, except for DOT’s unwillingness to work with local communities and to develop new and better ways of designing highways that move through the center of NC cities.

  13. Many of you kind folk are missing the point entirely… this is an INTERSTATE, not a city street.

    The City of Asheville has no rights concerning Interstates, that’s DOT’s job.

    If people who happen to be citizens of both North Carolina and Asheville want to protest the design, that’s their right.

    My point is the CITY has nothing to say about it.

    And, yes, I do live in the county and I am a native and, yes, many of us out here are fed up with the arrogance of the City of Asheville.

  14. author,

    i notice a funny theme in all of your posts here at mountainx. you dont think the community should have any opinions regarding what kind of buildings go up downtown. you dont think residents should have a say in a giant freeway right though the middle of town.
    the consistency and predictability is interesting. do you really believe that this is not an issue that we should have a say in? or do you just enjoy being contrary? i mean, i appreciate you input, your opinion. but dont yoou think other people opinion matters, too? or only if it is in line with your ‘turn asheville into charlotte with a giant interstate blazing thorugh what was once downtown? perhaps we should get mcdonalds and wendy’s to build a restruant downtown, as well? i mean, it is a free market.

    what if i move next door to you and set up giant inflatable holliday ornaments all year long, and blast classical music all night. would that be okay with you,t oo?

  15. author,

    the logic of your stance is too intelligent for a simple-minded individual such as myself to figure out.

    but, as i understand it, you are saying the DOT is allowed to build a road wherever they want, whenever they want, without any community input? and, if the city council, acting on behalf of a very vocal public, requests thaT the 8 lane freeway that may cut asheville in half be desinged in a way that doesnt turn asheville into charlotte, then they are some sort of rogue element?

    wow. good logic. i’m going to request that they build an onramp directly over your house. of course, that woudl probably be out of the way, since there is no way you could actually live anywhere near downtown or any area actual;ly impacted by this project.

    you, sire, are a rocket scinetist.

    if by rocket scientist you understand me to be saying ‘not-too-smart”

  16. My logic is fine, Sanders… it’s the logic of all the newcomers to Asheville who think they get to run the entire county. Did you have that kind of input where you came from? I think not.

    I state again, the city council has no rights in the matter of Interstate highways. I never said the community did not, of course the citizens do. That’s what it’s all about.

    Now, stand back and think about that. Meanwhile, let’s get the traffic moving.

  17. well, sir, you logic does seem kinda wacky to me.

    i was under the impression that city council were our ‘representatives” maybe that is a silly, naive notion.

    so, somehow, according to you, it’s all the ‘newcomers’ who dont want this interstate to debilitate our downtown? and these newcomers all wish to run the affairs of the county? i didnt realize the DOT was trying to put its giant road through the middle of the marshal. i coulda sworn it was though the city.

    its one thing to dislike the city council, but i think you need to look at each individual issue, here. city council may do some dumb things, but to say that they are meddling in affairs that dont effect them (and, vicariously, US) is preposterous.

    in addition, your pretzel logic claims that the city council, who are the community’s elected representatives, do not have a say in this matter. even though, as you say, the community does still have a say. hmmmm. interesting.

    again, since i live downtown, and dont drive on the interstate all that much (you know, cuz i live here, so i dont haveta drive here) i am not as concerned as you to see this project go through just so we can ‘get the traffic moving’.

    maybe you could go back and respond to all of the above comments regarding you immense knowlegde of all issues surrounding DOT?

  18. city council is NOT the proper recourse for anything relating to state roads… contact your state representative and/or state senator.

    that’s my point… understand it or not as you will.

  19. Aliasjoe

    I understand what you’re saying, but with all due respect, your wrong. The law states that the City has to vote on this with their representatives on the MPO. Asheville has two votes. The Design Center has no votes. And the way the Federal Legislation works on interstate highways, the local municipalities must bless the work with a resolution or vote. Both don’t mean much, but its part of the federal process. The Feds put this process in place in the 60’s because some state DOTs had a habit of running municipalities over (pardon the pun). This isn’t a matter of being an outsider or ain’t from ’round here. This is our federal law to ensure that the community is in on the process and design. The local MPO is looking to Asheville and Buncombe County to see if they are satisfied before they vote on the project seeing that those are the two most affected entities. And in order for those politicians to make comment to the MPO, they kinda have to know how their constituents must feel. The Design Center has put together some pretty solid numbers, and their proposal saves more than 100 acres of developable land from being turned into non-taxable land. And before you shrug off this effort, understand that land in the city of Asheville contributes to the coffers of Buncombe County. Those 100 acres that the Design Center is trying to save could have a yearly benefit of $5 million/year to the COUNTY coffers. Or we could just sit back and let DOT take that away from us, stick to our knitting and let big government do the thinking for us. The choice is ours.

  20. Aliasjoe, I do appreciate what the Design Center is attempting to accomplish, it’s good.

    However, I have lived in this county all my life and been observing the DOT for over 40 years. They will listen politely to all the various groups and municipalities that come before them and then, eventually, build it exactly the way they planned it in the first place.

    Without approving or disapproving DOT, I can understand why they do it that way. Only the state legislature has a chance of changing them. City council needs to concentrate on fighting the drug problems and making the UDO work. LOCAL ISSUES.

  21. Aliasjoe

    Sadly, I think you hit the nail on the head with DOT. But there are lots of folks out here saying “enough!”. This damage has gone on far too long and we can put our foot down. The locals have to be part of it. In fact the Design Center also involved the County AND the State representatives. The State reps got an earful of claims to follow what the community wishes and DOT just can’t seem to get there becasue they still operate as you mentioned above. Though this is understandable that they operate like an entrenched bureaucracy, it doesn’t mean that it is acceptable. And as a community, we shouldn’t just lay down and let them Raleighize us with solutions that don’t work for us. And I say all this acknowledging that they do OK work, but they also have to be willing to work with the community to make it better. We deserve better work, and we should ask for it.

  22. I agree with all of you last, Joe… my only point all along was that the city of Asheville was the wrong entity to interact with DOT. The county commissioners would have been a better choice but I think they are too politically savvy to take on DOT. ;-)

  23. ezekiel

    In case you didn’t see the blurb about the Brookings Institution fellow elsewhere on, he made a couple observations about Asheville traffic:

    • The Asheville region has an excess of high-speed highways and a shortfall of useful local roads compared to municipalities nationwide.

    • Downtown Asheville is home to about one half of one percent of the population of the four-county metropolitan area, compared to two to four percent downtown residency in most successful cities. Puente argued that raising the downtown population to two percent would be a useful goal for municipal policy makers.

    • One of his slides offered two overhead views of a section of Trenton, N.J., the first of which was from the past and bore strong resemblance to the present day loop-de-loop where Patton Ave., I-240 and I-26 meet in West Asheville. The second view was of Trenton today, after the huge highway interchange was eliminated and the highway through town replaced with an urban boulevard. Puentes said “Trenton has become the new Newark,” which didn’t draw much reaction from an audience unfamiliar with New Jersey development trends (Newark was once a poster child for urban blight but underwent a renaissance in the late 1990s and is now considered by planners to be a model livable large city).

  24. mandoman

    Brian Postelle– this thread came up in conversation lately, any update on the status of this?

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