Letter writer: Sacrificing neighborhoods to I-26  

Graphic by Lori Deaton

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


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9 thoughts on “Letter writer: Sacrificing neighborhoods to I-26  

  1. luther blissett

    “Can’t the same be done for other residential neighborhoods the highway will destroy?”

    The answer’s probably no. The letter-writer makes some worthwhile points, but does not suggest a preferred alternative to 4B. Given that NCDOT is not going to build a tunnel under the French Broad that comes out in Weaverville, the road’s going to have to go somewhere. Building highways through cities instead of around them is a long-standing historical mistake — other countries avoided that — but it’s not going to be corrected. If the argument is that nice gentrified Montford shouldn’t become a scapegoat for all the communities that have been demolished and devastated by interstate projects over the past half-century, then it’s up to the letter-writer to state which communities should be bulldozed. The map is the map.

  2. Mike

    The new connector should start neer or west of exit 44 on I-40 and merge back into eixsting temp I-26 road near the New Stock Road interchange or beyond Weaveverville. It is STUPID to buuild a new Interstate designed to carry non-local traffic passes right through an urban environment (See I-285 in Hotlanta, I-485 in Charlotte, the new I-40 in Winston Salem and the new I-85 in G’boro as examples of “lessons more or less learned” .

  3. AVL LVR

    An outer loop runs into obvious terrain difficulties that other cities don’t have. I-85 goes right through Atlanta. This isn’t a road per se, but rather a relocation of an existing one.

    • bsummers

      They’ve just charged a homeless crack addict with setting the fire that caused the catastrophic collapse of the I-85 overpass in Atlanta. Is this a lesson to not route interstate highways directly through urban environments?

      • luther blissett

        Not exactly. The damage is done first by interstates tearing apart communities — often minority neighborhoods, almost always lower-income ones that were considered expendable to serve white-flight commuters — and leaving dead zones in their wake.

        The NCDOT approach to terrain difficulties in the 2010s is not “blow a path through a mountain” but “work with the technical debt of past bad decisions.” Asheville’s not really in a position to demand an urban loop for I-26, and though I’m a self-driving car skeptic, I don’t think it’d be a good investment by the time it was completed even if there were enthusiasm for it.

      • Lulz

        It’s a lesson that a homeless crack addict shouldn’t be allowed to live under a bridge.

  4. Deplorable Infidel

    if a western arc from I40 over to I26 were being proposed, a whole different set of ‘progressives’ would be upset…time to get it done.

  5. Uhhhh

    This is long overdue, I’m sorry. And nobody cares about the poor black neighborhood.

  6. RadicalDudette

    The widening from Broadway to Stock (near Flat Creek) will destroy families and homes that have been there for a long time. The NC DOT in Raleigh and Asheville do not care. They will bull doze 6 houses in my cul-de-sac which is disgusting. The NC DOT needs to look at bridges not interstates. We will be looking like Atlanta, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, and D.C. Who is going to provide all the law enforcement to help with the MVA pileups and dead bears and deer that cross the interstates. Listen to Ch. 21 in Greenville. Everyday a deer is hit within the city. I have bears in my yard. Fences do not stop them. Why is this necessary? They just put out the fatality report and accident report on the construction on the south I-26 area. More than one death is enough. Speeders are the CAUSE. I think the people of Buncombe County ought to have a sit-in on the hwy when the NC DOT comes to explain their ignorant plan.

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