Matthew

I-26 Connector

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The debate is still on. Do we need 6 or 8 lanes? I say build 8. Who wants these DOT guys back out here in another 10 years at a major intersection like this? By the time it's built, it will be out-dated. At least they are thinking foward for our community and not just trying to build something that works for current numbers or numbers on completion, like they do in so many other cities in this state.

Shorter Article by John Boyle:

The Interstate-26 Connector, which involves the proposed widening of 3.1 miles of Interstate-240 in West Asheville from four to eight lanes, dominated the discussion at a public forum. Several in attendance, as well as two panelists, chastised the N.C. Department of Transportation for not listening to the public's desire for fewer than eight lanes through West Asheville.

Panelist, Jay Swain, the DOT's division engineer for the Asheville-based Division 13, said the numbers suggest the need for eight lanes. But he stressed that no final decisions have been made.

"There are still four alternatives out there, and none have been selected or pre-selected," Swain said.

Local traffic is increasing partly because the population is booming. Between 1990 and 2000, the 17 counties that make up Western North Carolina grew by 108,084, a 19 percent increase, according to the U.S. census.

The connector, which will connect the southern and northern Buncombe County sections of I-26, is by far the highest-profile road project looming in WNC. It will travel through the heart of Asheville and West Asheville - with a projected price tag of $298 million. DOT will announce the route in 2006 and start building in 2008. The project will take four years. All the routes have the potential of requiring the demolition of dozens of houses and business in West Asheville.

In June 2002, local government officials accepted a DOT recommendation that I-240 be widened from four lanes to eight as part of the project. But many residents feel that is just too much asphalt for a city of 68,000 people.

"People in Asheville generally are here because it's not Atlanta, and many people from Atlanta are here because it's not Atlanta - and they don't want eight lanes," said West Asheville resident Shirleigh Mooge, one of about 75 people attending the forum, which was held at Asheville High School as part of the Citizen-Times Agenda 2004 special section.

Several of those attending criticized the DOT and the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization for signing off on eight lanes based on traffic projections that were later revised. In 2002, the DOT projected that by 2025, about 143,000 vehicles a day would use the stretch of Interstate 240 from the Smoky Park Bridge to the I-240/26/40 interchange, if it is widened to eight lanes. But in July, the DOT revised those numbers, saying a new traffic model calls for 99,100 vehicles a day in 2020.

Panelist Dan Baechtold, a City of Asheville employee and coordinator of the MPO, said the organization's Traffic Advisory Committee did approve the eight lanes based on the higher figure.

At the time, the DOT said a six-lane road could accommodate 103,500 vehicles a day. Baechtold said the new numbers did not change the decision, though.

"The new number was right on the border," Baechtold said.

Swain said the traffic engineers and projection specialists still believe that eight lanes make the most sense for the long run because the DOT doesn't want to build a road that will have to be widened again in another 10 years. He also suggested that the public and concerned groups would benefit from hearing a more detailed explanation from the numbers crunchers in Raleigh and said he would try to set up such a meeting.

Contact Boyle at 232-5847 or [email protected]

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I agree with the state that this 8 lane solution is the best. I don't want to see more demolishion of houses, a dangerous section of highway or traffic routed away from Downtown. This will also be a quicker solution, that doesn't tie up traffic and brings the I-26 signs past Asheville and into Tennessee. The new I-26 extension cannot be signed as I-26 until this connector is in place.

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Is there room to expand 240? I haven't been to Asheville recently enough to remeber all of 240, but the parts I do remember were pretty snug in relation to the current development closer towards downtown.

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Out of all the possible solutions, this one will demolish the least number of existing structures. All the alternatives proposed, including by-passing downtown, will demolish a large number of homes and businesses. What's intresting is, the people proposing the alternatives want to save homes and businesses, or so they say. I think they just fear an 8 lane highway and the image they have of an 8 lane highway in their mind.

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I don't think that this article is suggesting widening all of I-240, or that widening is an option in lieu of a by pass. From what I remember, (correct me if I'm wrong) there are 4 options on how to transition over the French broad and the widening of 240 through west Asheville is an entirely separate issue...

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There are four state options and thousands of citizen options proposed to the state every time they have a meeting with the public. It's only 3 miles of 8 lane highway! I don't think we have any serious traffic problems, but we could 10 years from now, if population continues to grow and grow outward. I think our residential core has helped us, but this city still needs to work to get more people to live in the city limits and quit moving to the outer edges. Most people move to the mountains to get away from the city though, so I guess this is a problem that won't go away for us. At some point they will have to widen all or at least part of 240 to 6 lanes, but that is 10 years away at current growth and using current growth patterns. Right now, there is heavy volume, but it moves. No traffic jams or huge back-ups unless there's an accident and those will hold-up traffic even if the highway is widened to 8 lanes, with people taking a quick look at what's happening. There are a lot of common-sense drivers around here, and that helps keep traffic moving safely. There's a huge difference between drivers here and drivers in the state's other big cities.

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Yes, this again...

Support for Six Lanes:

Buncombe County Democratic Party

I-26 Connector Awareness Group

WNC Alliance.

Support for Eight Lanes:

The Council of Independent Business Owners

Asheville Chamber of Commerce

The Asheville Board of Realtors

Attend Meetings:

Monday July 12:

The NCDOT will hold a public hearing from 4-7 p.m. at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on the proposed addition of lanes to I-40 west of I-26.

Wednesday July 14:

The NCDOT will host a meeting at 6 p.m. in A-B Tech's Ferguson Auditorium to discuss traffic projections and the agency's intention to build eight lanes through West Asheville.

Quote of the Day:

Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The LORD will do what is good in his sight. 1 Chronicles 19:13

Pick your side:

6 or 8 lanes? :D

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Woah, it definately needs widening, but 8 lanes--- I could definately see 6. How far will they expand it in terms of miles?

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I think they (NC-DOT) will just build whatever they want. They seem to favor 8 lanes, even with lower projections and little support from the community. Still, everyone should attend the meetings.

This was in today's paper...

http://www.citizen-times.com/pdf/business/...interchange.pdf

DOT still pushing for 8-lane I-240

By Mark Barrett

Three possibilities for the future I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange

ASHEVILLE - Alice P. Carmichael has lived in her home on Fayetteville Street since the 1950s, so long that she can remember when the 40-foot-tall red spruce that shades her front yard was planted.

But lately, she has been wondering how much longer she'll be able to stay. Interstate 240 lies just a few yards away from her home, meaning Carmichael is among hundreds of West Asheville residents who could be affected by state plans to widen Interstate 240 between Smoky Park Bridge and its interchange with I-26 and I-40 on the southwestern edge of the city.

State officials will be in town next week to explain why they think the road should be widened to eight lanes.

They will also hold a meeting on a separate project to widen a short stretch of Interstate 40 just west of its interchange with I-26 and I-240 from four to eight lanes. It could help relieve traffic snarls that the state says back up cars for three to six miles at times.

Carmichael would like to see I-240 be as narrow as possible, figuring that the wider the road, the worse the noise from traffic - or the greater the chances that the state will tear down her home to make way for the highway.

"I may have to find me a place to go, and I don't know where that would be," she said. "I've been living on this street so long. Everybody knows each other. We try to help each other."

The widening is part of a larger project called the I-26 Connector that also involves changes to the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange and construction of another crossing of the French Broad River west of downtown. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2008 and end in 2012.

Meeting could be pivotal

The reception the Department of Transportation's presentation gets Wednesday could play an important role in determining whether local officials ask for changes to the state's plans for eight lanes.

A group of local government officials that helps set local transportation priorities endorsed eight lanes in June 2002, but since then, projections of the number of vehicles that will use the road have changed dramatically.

DOT predicted in 2002 that 143,000 vehicles would use I- 240 daily in the year 2025 if it were widened to eight lanes, up from the 52,000 a day it carried in 2000. But in July 2003, a new computerized traffic model predicted only 99,100 vehicles a day on the road in 2030.

DOT says eight lanes are still needed, but the change has sparked questions from members of Asheville City Council and increased criticism from West Asheville residents and others pushing for a narrower road.

Those questions prompted DOT to schedule Wednesday's meeting.

A narrower road would leave some money for other measures to move traffic in the area, said transportation activist Betty Lawrence.

"I would love to see (DOT) realize that only studying eight lanes won't do it," she said.

Key DOT officials involved in the project couldn't be reached Friday.

DOT's Beverly Williams said last year that engineers had originally expected more vehicles than they would like for an eight-lane road and that a six-lane highway would not have enough capacity to handle traffic.

The local officials' group, the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization, is scheduled to discuss the issue again Thursday. Dan Baechtold, a staff person for the MPO, said its staff is recommending that the MPO not vote on any changes to the project immediately.

Monday's meeting on proposed improvements to I-40 between its interchanges with U.S. 19-23 in Enka and with I-26 and I- 240 near the Western North Carolina Farmers Market may be less contentious.

Traffic moving from I-26 to I-40 westbound backs up as much as six miles on Thursday and Friday afternoons and there are often delays in the area on I-40 or I-240 westbound also.

DOT's plans include adding two lanes to I-40 in each direction and spending $1.1 million to build a wall to block noise for eight-tenths of a mile on the south side of the highway. Work would generally be done within existing right- of-way.

A construction contract would be let in October 2005, said Ed Lewis a DOT official helping coordinate Monday's meeting.

HIGHWAY MEETINGS

The state Department of Transportation will hold a meeting Monday to explain and hear comment on its plans to widen Interstate 40 from four to eight lanes between its interchange with U.S. 19-23 and I-26 and I-240 near the Western North Carolina Farmers Market. The informal, drop-in meeting will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, 435 Smoky Park Highway.

DOT officials and others will explain the state's recommendation that I-240 in West Asheville be widened to eight lanes in a meeting that runs from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. It will be at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College on Victoria Road in the Laurel Building's Ferguson Auditorium. A question-and-answer period will follow the presentations.

The Transportation Advisory Committee of the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization, a group of local government officials that work with DOT on transportation issues, is scheduled to discuss the I-240 widening issue during a meeting that begins at 12:10 p.m. Thursday in the city public works building at 161 S. Charlotte St. The TAC has said it will not take public comment on the issue Thursday. A group of staffers that work with the TAC meets at 10:30 a.m. in the same location.

WHAT'S AHEAD

Plans to widen I-240 are part of a larger project called the I-26 Connector that also involves building a new crossing of the French Broad River just west of downtown and reconfiguring the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange to the southwest of the city, near the Western North Carolina Farmers Market.

DOT will hold public meetings on the overall I-26 Connector project in 2005, winter 2005-06 and 2007 and plans to select a route for the road in 2006. Construction is to begin in 2008 and end in 2012.

More information is available on the I-26 Connector at www.ncdot.org/projects/i26connector/.

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I still think 8 lanes is just too much. Greenville only has 6 lanes on 85 and they're putting 6 on 385. I just can't imagine that Asheville has a need for that much capactiy. I could easily see 6 though. Last time I was up there, 240 was kinda bad.

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I still think 8 lanes is just too much. Greenville only has 6 lanes on 85 and they're putting 6 on 385. I just can't imagine that Asheville has a need for that much capactiy. I could easily see 6 though. Last time I was up there, 240 was kinda bad.

...while much of I-485 around Charlotte is 4 lanes, I hate NCDOT. I wish Charlotte were located inside of South Carolina!

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I was thinking about Greenville's 6 lane highways when I first heard 8 lanes. It is a little extreme. Greenville has a larger urbanized area than Asheville too. I worry about losing houses in West Asheville. That is one of the coolest neighborhoods in the state (my opinion) and should be preserved, not demolished for highway projects.

If Charlotte was in South Carolina, you would have 10-12 lane highways, but you wouldn't have the nice annexation laws NC cities enjoy. If Greenville was in North Carolina, it would have a population of 175,000 - 200,000 and more control over development. Charleston would have around 250,000 people if it was in NC. I'm sure Columbia would be twice as big as it is now if it was in NC. Asheville could annex it's way up to 150,000 with the proposed annexation.

Here's some information worth looking at.

Census 2000 Urbanized Area (UA):

Charlotte: 758,927

Raleigh: 541,527

Winston-Salem: 299,290

Durham: 287,796

Fayetteville: 276,368

Greensboro: 267,884

Asheville: 221,570

Hickory: 187,808

Wilmington: 161,149

Gastonia: 141,407

Greenville (NC): 84,059

Charleston: 423,410

Columbia: 420,537

Most transportation departments use these numbers and these are better numbers to use to compare cities. I've noticed a lot of forum members use these numbers instead of city population counts. That is a better guide to how big our cities really are. In fact, I got those numbers from the Federal Department of Transportation. It's how the divide up transportation dollars. At 70,000 Asheville may not look very big, but when you look at the Urbanized Area, you see it is big place. I think we could use 6 lanes, but not 8. I travel to Winston-Salem a lot and all their highways are 4 lanes, with only one 6 lane highway. They don't have many traffic problems. They don't even have a loop!

For Spartanburger:

Spartanburg: 145,058

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Also, for some other SC cities:

GreenvilleSC: 302,194

Florence: 67,314

Rock Hill: 70,007

Myrtle Beach: 122,984

Matthew is right. if Charlotte were in SC its city limits would not be as large as they are and the population would br around 250k (in the City Limits of course). SC has these horrid annexation laws.

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--For reference--

Census 2000 Urbanized Area (UA):

Charlotte: 758,927

Raleigh: 541,527

Winston-Salem: 299,290

Durham: 287,796

Fayetteville: 276,368

Greensboro: 267,884

Asheville: 221,570

Hickory: 187,808

Wilmington: 161,149

Gastonia: 141,407

Greenville (NC): 84,059

Charleston: 423,410

Columbia: 420,537

Spartanburg: 145,058

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Results of the meeting from today's paper. It's tomorrow's meeting that should be fun to watch. :D

Drivers can't wait for widening of I-40 section

By Mark Barrett, Staff WriterJuly 12, 2004 10:46 p.m.

ASHEVILLE - Work to widen a short stretch of Interstate 40 just west of Interstate 26 to alleviate congestion can't come soon enough for some people who drive it.

"Cut the trees down and let's go with it," said Alexander resident Chuck Swiger. Traffic on I-40 is "murder," he said.

About 100 people came to the Ramada Plaza Hotel Monday to look over state plans to widen I-40 from four lanes to eight between the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange on the southwestern edge of the city and the I-40/U.S. 19-23 interchange near Enka.

Traffic there often moves slowly during rush hour and can be a particular problem for drivers commuting to Enka and Candler via I-40 and its interchange with U.S. 19-23, Exit 44.

Many attending Monday's meeting were anxious to see work begin. Some also wanted improvements to Exit 44 and some worried about the impact on their homes along the road.

The state Department of Transportation proposes to spend more than $28 million to add lanes along a 1.7-mile section of I-40 using existing right of way. Work would start in fall 2005 and take at least two years. DOT also plans to dramatically realign the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange itself as part of changes to I-240 planned to begin in 2008.

"This'll be great. It's going to help," Candler resident Joe Noland said of the extra lanes for I-40.

The plans don't go far enough, said Larry Collins: "Exit 44 is definitely highly congested. It's been needing work for five to 10 years."

DOT engineer Colista Freeman said redoing the interchange would require much more time and money. DOT plans a noise wall more than eight tenths of a mile long on the south side of I-40 but says there are not enough homes on the north side to justify the cost.

That concerns residents John and Belle Mieloch.

Noise has gotten so bad, "We're not going to be able to sell our home," Belle Mieloch said. "We'd be lucky to get what we bought it for."

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Well so much for debate. I guess the NCDOT doesn't mess around with stuff, they jsut do it. How long has this idea been around?

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That is very true. Spartanburg's city limits only account for about 39,000 of the 145,000 in the urbanized area (thats 26.9%). Greenville's city limits account for only 56,000 of its 302,000 (18.5%). UA and County populations are definately the only way to go. UAs are probably the best identifier because out west there are those massive counties...

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Still, it needs to be broken down to figure how much to give to individual cities. I-85 in Gastonia doesn't need as much money or lanes as I-85 in the heart of Charlotte.

Urbanized Area is the best way to measure city size. Just look how big counties like Wake in NC and Greenville County in SC are in land area. New Hannover is very small. Forsyth and Durham counties in NC are small. Urbanized Area is what meets state annexation requirements. On forums it is becoming the way to measure city size.

The point I was trying to make is, Asheville is bigger than it looks. We don't annex like the state's other big cities. Even Wilmington does a few big annexations. Asheville just takes in very small pieces here and there. Yes, Charlotte needs the money a lot more than Asheville, but Asheville is big enough to need at least 6 lanes and in some areas, maybe 8? I will support 8, as long as historic houses aren't destroyed to build 8. You know it takes these clowns at the DOT 10 years to widen a small stretch of highway. Why not over build and just call them back for repairs. :lol: Out of all the cities I've been to, Winston-Salem appears to be the most short-changed city on highway construction. We could have larger highways than they have soon. They have crumbling bridges, 50 year old concrete highways, small or no shoulders and dangerously short ramps. All of their highways need to be rebuilt and about half the bridges are listed as worst in the state and in need of replacement. They have had bridges fall apart recently. :blink: Luckly no one has gotten hurt from falling debris or the holes in the road surface of the bridges. The most over-built city in North Carolina, in terms of highways, is Raleigh. How many loops do they have again? Their highways have nice new pavement too. Now that I-77 and I-85 are getting widened, I think Charlotte is about average in terms of highways. It looks like I-85 in University City could be finished soon? That has got to be an NC-DOT record? :lol: It looks nice too!

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Like I said, a lot of people will show up, but the DOT will build whatever they want. I wanted to watch the news tonight, but I was tired and slept through the 11 o'clock hour. I didn't attend the meeting, but wanted to. If I'm up, I may check the early morning news and see what they have to say. I see someone brought back the loop idea again. :lol: I think I'm starting to join the crowd that says, just build the thing. They are wasting taxpayer dollars on these meetings where they try to sell the public on their ideas only. It could be the only solution, but if it is just built it. I would like to see houses relocated if needed. What kind of impact do you see this having on West Asheville? I do worry a little about home values.

DOT says 8 lanes still best for I-240

By Mark Barrett, Staff WriterJuly 14, 2004 10:39 p.m.

ASHEVILLE - If a six-lane Interstate 240 in West Asheville were a student, it would flunk.

So said engineer Ken Burleson at a meeting Wednesday to discuss the state Department of Transportation's plan to widen the road to eight lanes.

Burleson said the level of congestion on a six-lane road would be such that, "You don't decide how fast you drive. The guy in front of you and the guy in front of him and the guy in front and the guy in front and so on decide."

Burleson, a private engineer working for DOT on the project, was among six consultants and DOT employees who appeared before about 225 people in a meeting at Asheville- Buncombe Technical Community College to explain why DOT recommends eight lanes instead of six.

The plan was controversial even before DOT significantly revised downward its projections for traffic on the road last year. Many in the audience Wednesday weren't convinced, saying an eight-lane road would be too disruptive or that the state has not done enough to look at other alternatives.

Asheville Motor Speedway made noise before it closed, but, "That was one night a week. We didn't mind that," said West Asheville resident Stephen Hillman. A wider I-240 would bring "loud traffic" noise "seven days a week, 365 days a year," he said.

Some in the audience, however, backed eight lanes. Some urged DOT to stop talking and start building. Some said DOT should build a loop road through northwestern Buncombe County instead.

"The traffic is coming," said Erich Schmid of Fairview. "I encourage you to proceed as quickly as possible with eight lanes."

"Let's get it done," said West Asheville businessman Hector Contreras, who didn't say how wide the road should be.

The widening is part of a larger project called the I-26 Connector that also involves reworking the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange just southwest of the city and construction of another crossing of the French Broad River west of downtown. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2008 and end in 2012.

DOT predicted in 2002 that 143,000 vehicles would use I-240 daily in the year 2025 if it were widened to eight lanes, up from the 52,000 a day it carried in 2000. A group of local officials endorsed an eight-lane plan at the time. But in July 2003, a new, more sophisticated traffic model predicted 99,100 vehicles a day on the road in 2030.

Before taking questions and comments, DOT's panel spent an hour explaining how they arrived at the numbers and why they think the new figure is still too many for a six-lane road during a presentation that sounded at times like the first day of a college course on traffic engineering.

"The decision that we've made is an engineering decision based on standard engineering procedures," said DOT's Drew Joyner, who is directing planning for the project. He said DOT didn't choose six lanes because, "We do not want to design for failure."

But West Asheville resident David McConville said the analysis does not take into account alternatives to highways and worried about its community impact.

"I love the neighborhood, and (the road) is going to absolutely tear it up," he said.

WHAT'S NEXT ?

-- DOT officials have said they will continue planning an eight-lane road unless local officials request otherwise. It is not clear what would happen then.

-- The Transportation Advisory Committee of the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization - a group of local government officials that work with DOT on transportation issues - is scheduled to discuss the I-240 widening issue during a meeting that begins at 12:10 p.m. today in the city public works building at 161 S. Charlotte St. The TAC has said it will not take public comment on the issue today. A group of staffers that work with the TAC meets at 10:30 a.m. in the same location.

-- DOT will hold public meetings on the overall I-26 Connector project in 2005, winter 2005-06 and 2007 and plans to select a route for the road in 2006. Construction is to begin in 2008 and end in 2012.

More information is available at www.ncdot.org/projects/i26connector/.

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The NCDOT is just really excited about adding lanes for some reason. But this is a statewide issue too....

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The French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization is waiting until September to make their final decision on the plans to widen I-240 in West Asheville to eight lanes. It gives everyone a chance to write in their opinion. Plus not enough members showed up for the meeting.

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