Max Hunt’s eloquent “Inroads” article points out the human cost of interstate highways in WNC [“Inroads: How Interstate Highways Changed the Face of WNC,” March 8, Xpress]. I have lived for decades in Montford, one of the neighborhoods that will be most negatively impacted by the 4B plan for I-26 adopted by the Department of Transportation and City Council.
4B is the most financially costly plan and also the plan that entails the largest destruction of homes and business properties of any of the possible routes. I am writing to lament the human costs that this overbuilt highway will have upon the North Asheville neighborhoods in its wake: Montford, Hillcrest and northern Riverside Drive will all be sacrifice zones of this monster project.
Montford is a racially diverse historic neighborhood with a mix of traditionally African-American streets, a housing project, small cottages and large mansions once home to elite white families and are now mostly inns serving the tourist industry. It is also home to historic Riverside Cemetery, where various luminaries and historical figures are buried.
The four to eight new lanes of 4B will be blasted and cut out of the hillsides of Montford — currently covered with old and new homes and many large trees. The highway will condemn homes, block off streets and clear-cut the remaining woods. Massive new 10-story high bridges across the river will loom over the cemetery and then run alongside houses perched on the sheered-off hillsides.
Highway noise, pollution and headlights will penetrate far into the neighborhood — as there is no way to buffer elevated highways — and high concrete walls will replace the trees that have sheltered Montford from the noise and sight of 19-23. 4B will also cut off Montford from access to Riverside Drive and the RAD, and will remove the access road between Montford and Hillcrest, which is well-used by cars and pedestrians traveling between the neighborhoods.
City Council is also silent about the devastating impacts that 4B will have upon the Hillcrest housing project — which will be surrounded by many-laned highways, walled in by high concrete barriers and subject to even more highway noise and pollution.
And while we reclaim the French Broad River south of Patton Avenue — 4B will take land along the northern section out of use and make it harder to access the water.
Montford residents met with Council members to voice our concerns, and we hosted a community meeting where DOT was less than forthcoming about negative impacts of 4B upon neighborhoods. I am still stunned that Council has selected the highway with the largest footprint that will take the most land away from residential and business neighborhoods.
In Hunt’s article, Julie Mayfield says that Council is working to minimize the impacts of 4B. I ask Council to do much more to save our neighborhoods from the destruction coming our way. As DeWayne Barton says in Hunt’s article, I-26 was rerouted to save the Burton Street neighborhood. Can’t the same be done for other residential neighborhoods the highway will destroy?
— Rachel Stein