WNC Alliance launches new I-26 Connector Web site

The WNC Alliance has launched a new Web site to help keep local communities updated on the latest information regarding the controversial Interstate 26 Connector project.

“We are focused on broad education,” says Julie Mayfield, executive director the alliance, a grassroots nonprofit environmental organization based in Asheville. The goal of the new site, www.i26connectusproject.org, is to gather key information in one place and keep neighborhoods informed about changes to the project plans.

The road project has been in the works for nearly two decades, with construction now scheduled to begin in 2014. The work will rank as one of Asheville’s biggest road projects, with an estimated price tag ranging from $500 million to more than $800 million. The construction plans include widening Interstate 240 in West Asheville, building a new highway bridge crossing the French Broad River and changing the configuration of the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange, which often clogs with interweaving traffic.

Earlier this year, the N.C. Department of Transportation announced it was delaying the project’s construction for a year (from 2013 to 2014) to further study the construction’s impact. There are four proposed routes for construction of the connector, including a locally developed alternative that will be analyzed.

“Not much will be happening in the public eye until next spring,” says Mayfield, noting that the supplemental environmental impact statement evaluating those alternatives will be released about then. In the meantime, the WNC Alliance continues to hold informational forums in the Emma and Hillcrest communities. Attention has also focused on the Burton Street neighborhood.

The WNC Alliance also continues to circulate a petition asking that the goals of a 2000 committee making recommendations about the design of the road be met. Those goals include separating local and interstate traffic, minimizing impacts on neighborhoods and businesses and matching the scale of the project to the character of the city.

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor


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3 thoughts on “WNC Alliance launches new I-26 Connector Web site

  1. I applaud the Alliance for creating the Web site. Getting information about the proposes changes to as many people as possible is urgent.

    However, I’m sorry to note that they have conflated the Asheville Design Center plan with NCDOT 4-B. They are NOT the same plan as I am very well aware, having covered the ADC process and the DOT for many years as a reporter and editor.

    4-B is a Frankenstein’s monster version of what the ADC was trying to achieve—it is the closest approximation among the DOT’s uniformly bad plans.

    The key problems that NCDOT insists on introducing to our city are: 8 lanes (plus extras for on and off ramps, and 65 mph through town. I recall that in the early 1990s, DOT told us that if we didn’t have 8 lanes by 2002, we would experience gridlock. Wrong. I notice that many cities have reduced speeds through town. Why not Asheville? The combo of high speed and too many lanes has created the agency’s push for a highway we will never need. (According to the USDOT, auto use in this country peaked more than 18 months ago. Reducing carbon emissions will require that we move more freight by rail and less by truck.) The NCDOT is stuck in the 20th century. The world has changed.

  2. Jeffrey Japp

    I concur with Cecil that the current version of Alternate 4-B is a nightmare. For those who have not seen the current design, it is six lanes of raised highway stacked on top of the existing four lanes of highway, which is 19/23. Essentially, this equals ten lanes of highway adjacent to Historic Montford, Isaac Dickson Elementary, Riverside Cemetery, and the Hazel Robinson Amphitheatre. I urge everyone to look at the plans which are available on the DOT website, complete with animation depicting the giant flyovers now part of 4-B.

    Please let the DOT know that none of the proposed options will work for this community. This project needs to be scaled back to keep with the size and character of Asheville.

  3. Giorgio P. Cave

    While I appreciate the coverage of the I-26 controversy in the Mountain Express, I was surprised that there was omitted from the article any mention of the concerns of the residents of Montford, one of Asheville’s oldest and most historic neighborhoods, whose revitalization has been essential to the economic renaissance of the downtown and whose residents stand to be among the most negatively impacted by the I-26 highway project, particularly if alternate 4B is chosen, which would site a six lane, double decker monstrosity immediately adjacent to the Riverside Cemetary and Westover Drive on the west side of Montford. Readers of your newspaper should know that the Montford Neighborhood Association has taken a leading role in attempting to safeguard the quality of life in Asheville, which will without question be seriously impacted should any of the routes in their present form be constructed, by researching and preparing a comprehensive report on the I-26 project, which details both the potential negative impacts of all the proposed plans as well as the community standards which must be adhered to by the NC Dept. of Transportation in order to ensure the least possible harm to the community, i.e., the Project Design Goals for I-26 adopted by the Community Coordinating Committee (CCC) with broad-based community support in 2000, the Asheville City Development Plan 2025, and the Wilma Dykeman Riverway Plan developed in 2003, which would enormously enhance the quality of life in Asheville through the creation of a comprehensive greenway network. The citizens of Asheville must unite to ensure that the D.0.T. does not transform this marvelous,beautiful small city into a hideous concrete urban jungle a la Atlanta. The D.O.T. wants to pit one neighborhood against another so that it can then choose its own preferred route and foist it on the residents of Asheville. NONE of the current routes is acceptable in their present form and we must unite to demand that NO ONE’S neighborhood in Asheville be sacrificed to the whims of the D.O.T.’s highway planners. They don’t have to live here – we do, and it’s up to us to ensure that this jewel of a city is not forever tarnished.

    Giorgio P. Cave
    Montford/Asheville resident

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