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Matthew

I-26 Connector

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I can understand why NCDOT is gunshy - they have image problems, a byzantine and archaic funding 'formula' and a poor track record with both planning and maintainence. The Charlotte loop? 4-lanes, and obsolete the day it opened. I-40 in southeast Forsyth County? 4-lanes linking two 6 or 8 lane stretches in two large cities. I-40 through Cary? Ditto. I-77 in north Meck? Widening 1 year behind schedule (and it should be noted that this road - opened in 1976 - had all but disintegrated in less than 10 years time due to abysmal initial construction; a major reconstruction had to be done in the mid 1980s). I-85 in Rowan County? A widening project approaches its' 10th birthday, on - statistically - the most dangerous stretch of that highway. 8-lane 85 through northeast Charlotte or 8-lane 40 between Durham and Raleigh? Try to find your lane during a downpour - the reflectors and some of the markings were scraped up by snowplows several years ago, and no one's bothered to replace them, or resurface the highway, or install any lighting. I-40 in Durham and Orange Counties? Less than 15 years old, and already in need of widening, which was incorrectly done (lack of expansion joints in new concrete, causing the road to fall apart) in Durham, resulting in a re-widening/correction that starts later this year... So ... I think NCDOT is really trying to make it look good on some high profile big new projects.

Local leaders should make demands, and supervise the hell out of them when they're doing the work, and make sure that alternatives stay on the table.

First long paragraph, i totally agree on what your saying, as ive driven all aforementioned highways. NCDOT though, is on top of things when it comes to rural secondary two lane roads.

2nd short paragraph, could you further explain on the alternative part?

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First long paragraph, i totally agree on what your saying, as ive driven all aforementioned highways. NCDOT though, is on top of things when it comes to rural secondary two lane roads.

2nd short paragraph, could you further explain on the alternative part?

Simply - if local officials have better, detailed ideas, that they shouldn't let the DOT shove something down their throat. If local officials demand a 6-lane instead of 8, they have the responsibility to see to it that it happens, and they also have the responsibility to manage growth in that part of Asheville, so the road doesn't get overwhelmed, forcing the DOT into some expensive rebuild project in 5 or 10 years. If the DOT has a record of underplanning urban roads (look at every other metro in the state), Asheville officials should recognize that immediately and see to it that nothing gets overlooked, and if they think they'll need HOV lanes (as an example) mention it now, or do without. Likewise, they also need to set policies and stick to them with future development potential. That land west of the river is some of the more potentially developable land in that area, so if it's going to happen, it should be done wisely, with the road's capacity and design well considered.

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Simply - if local officials have better, detailed ideas, that they shouldn't let the DOT shove something down their throat. If local officials demand a 6-lane instead of 8, they have the responsibility to see to it that it happens, and they also have the responsibility to manage growth in that part of Asheville, so the road doesn't get overwhelmed, forcing the DOT into some expensive rebuild project in 5 or 10 years. If the DOT has a record of underplanning urban roads (look at every other metro in the state), Asheville officials should recognize that immediately and see to it that nothing gets overlooked, and if they think they'll need HOV lanes (as an example) mention it now, or do without. Likewise, they also need to set policies and stick to them with future development potential. That land west of the river is some of the more potentially developable land in that area, so if it's going to happen, it should be done wisely, with the road's capacity and design well considered.

I don't know how it all works in NC (as far as interstate projects), but Chattanooga was able to stop TDOT in the mid - late 1990's from widening I-124/US 27. The city and several businesses didn't like the plans that had been selected for the project. The interstate itself was going to be 8 lanes, with a collector feeder system for all 3 downtown exits. The ramps for the MLK exit were going to come within 4 ft of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee's 3 floor. After several meetings TDOT agreed to halt the process and allow the city to higher a consultant at it's expense to find alternatives. The city and consultant decided on an 6 or 8 lane surface boulevard with traffic lights (the interstate would no longer be elevated). TDOT didn't like that, and said they wouldn't do it. So TDOT went back to the drawing board. In the mean time Phase II started in place of Phase I. TDOT has now come back with a proposal for divided concept: 4 lanes through downtown for through traffic divided from 4 local lanes. Everyone seems to be happy with this, and once Phase III (north of the river to Signal Mountain exit) is complete Phase I will start.

On a side note Chattanooga was able to get TDOT to abandon a state route (TN Route 317?) along the riverfront downtown. The state removed the route signs and it is just a local road now; that Chattanooga has narrowed, removed the barriers dividing it, added intersections and traffic lights to it. The purpose was to reconnect the city to the Riverfront, and the Bluff View Art District.

As far as Asheville is concerned though it seems they (city and business community) are for the project, while Chattanooga fought theirs from the start, with the backing of the business community and residents.

Edited by flith

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The section of I-240 being redone isn't the part through downtown. When that stretch comes up for reconstruction, you can bet there will be massive protest and opposition. But as for the I-26 connector, most everyone is coming to terms with the idea that we're going to have an 8-lane freeway (myself included - and I was REALLY opposed at first.) Every interchange along this route is strange and substandard in some way, and there really is a traffic capacity crunch, so the highway really needs to be done.

I can think of only one area with consequential neighborhood impacts: Haywood Road. The highway bisects a little commercial district at Haywood & Westwood. I'd hate to lose any more of those historic commercial buildings and bungalows.

If we can get NCDOT to design the highway right, we can end up with a better road, while minimizing the negative impact on West Asheville, and having an impressive positive impact on the river district and western dowtntown.

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Simply - if local officials have better, detailed ideas, that they shouldn't let the DOT shove something down their throat. If local officials demand a 6-lane instead of 8, they have the responsibility to see to it that it happens, and they also have the responsibility to manage growth in that part of Asheville, so the road doesn't get overwhelmed, forcing the DOT into some expensive rebuild project in 5 or 10 years. If the DOT has a record of underplanning urban roads (look at every other metro in the state), Asheville officials should recognize that immediately and see to it that nothing gets overlooked, and if they think they'll need HOV lanes (as an example) mention it now, or do without. Likewise, they also need to set policies and stick to them with future development potential. That land west of the river is some of the more potentially developable land in that area, so if it's going to happen, it should be done wisely, with the road's capacity and design well considered.

I take issue with the statement that "if local officials demand a 6-lane instead of 8, they have the responsibility to see to it that it happens" and "DOT has a record of underplanning urban roads" in the same breath. Sure, in an ideal world, 6 lanes could be built and Asheville could limit growth so the road isn't overwhelmed, but I can tell you that in 95% of cases, the local municipality simply doesn't hold up it's end of the deal, and in 10-15 years, DOT gets 100% of the blame when the local officials who made the land use decisions are long gone. This is exactly what happened on I-485 in south Mecklenburg. Charlotte said back in the late 80s 'we won't build past NC 51,' and look at what's out there now... Ballantyne, Carolina Place Mall, you name it... so now you have a 4-lane freeway carrying 124k cars per day... it's a complete mess out there, and of course, it's now DOT's job to fix it. :huh:

The decision on the connector is a balance. FWIW the feds stepped in a while back and said they supported 8 lanes too and I believe the local MPO (that guides local transportation plans) supports this as well, or at least did in the very recent past. It's not solely the city of Asheville's role to decide what is built. There are a lot of factors that go into this decision. It's an interstate highway and has local, regional, state, and federal significance, therefore ALL of those interests all need to be considered in a balanced equation.

I think the archicture group looking at ways to improve the process is a positive thing and I hope the DOT folks working on this (I may know some of them) do as well.

My point is that all sides need to work together to have their interests heard so they can come to the best decision possible.

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I take issue with the statement that "if local officials demand a 6-lane instead of 8, they have the responsibility to see to it that it happens" and "DOT has a record of underplanning urban roads" in the same breath. Sure, in an ideal world, 6 lanes could be built and Asheville could limit growth so the road isn't overwhelmed, but I can tell you that in 95% of cases, the local municipality simply doesn't hold up it's end of the deal, and in 10-15 years, DOT gets 100% of the blame when the local officials who made the land use decisions are long gone. This is exactly what happened on I-485 in south Mecklenburg. Charlotte said back in the late 80s 'we won't build past NC 51,' and look at what's out there now... Ballantyne, Carolina Place Mall, you name it... so now you have a 4-lane freeway carrying 124k cars per day... it's a complete mess out there, and of course, it's now DOT's job to fix it. :huh:

The decision on the connector is a balance. FWIW the feds stepped in a while back and said they supported 8 lanes too and I believe the local MPO (that guides local transportation plans) supports this as well, or at least did in the very recent past. It's not solely the city of Asheville's role to decide what is built. There are a lot of factors that go into this decision. It's an interstate highway and has local, regional, state, and federal significance, therefore ALL of those interests all need to be considered in a balanced equation.

I think the archicture group looking at ways to improve the process is a positive thing and I hope the DOT folks working on this (I may know some of them) do as well.

My point is that all sides need to work together to have their interests heard so they can come to the best decision possible.

This I'll definitely concede; my word choices were a bit poor. I should state that IMO the DOT is open to criticism, but most definitely so are local officials; I remember the planning debates over what evolved into 485 - the projected routes where shifted several times, and no one local kept their word on the planning end of things. I see evidence of the same in the Triangle (that weird 4-lane bottleneck on I-40 in Cary) on a more or less daily basis. Local officials drop the ball again and again with this.

I just have serious frustrations with the DOT, which includes things that I know are not their fault; the buck gets passed in the cities, and funding formulas that favor certain areas of the state over others won't be changing anytime soon; population isn't much of a consideration from what I can see, and when I have to drive on highways that are - frankly - hazardous (I-85 from Lexington to Salisbury), I just get mad every time I think about what it's doing to my car. Mass transit of course should be an option, but the financial costs to quickly implement a high-practicality system that would really effectively serve our urban areas, while also linking places around the state are very extreme. DOT is an easy target; I know this isn't all their fault (though those funding formulas - someone who doesn't mind getting voted out of office should agitate for some serious changes there).

The DOT has no way of reading the minds of planners, city council officials or developers in the Asheville area, and I can understand the DOT's very adamant wish to not get into another situation like 485 in Charlotte or 40 across south Durham. I am absolutely certain this will occur with the Garden Pkwy in Meck and Gaston Counties...

BUT if folks in Asheville swear they are serious about what they are saying, then give them the benefit of the doubt, and if they go back on their end of the bargain, remind people of where the blame sits. If effective transportation planning has gotten that ruthless in the state, given what has happened to costs, then we should face it, and stop Mickey-Mousing around.

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(bump).

Ooh, cool, let's talk about trolleys and rail service in Asheville!

You may have heard that sometime in the not infinitely distant future, NCDOT wants to bring passenger rail service to Asheville. But one of the problems that I see with this plan is that there is no apparent location for a train station within walking distance of downtown. Since downtown is on a hill and the railroad is in the French Broad River floodplain, the walk would have to be at least one mile up a steep hill, which would be quite strenuous for someone of poor health.

I believe that the solution to this problem lies in Asheville's past. The exact same problem existed way back in the roaring 20s too, but they had a solution: the streetcar.

How could streetcars be used to solve the problem today? There are two parts to the solution: first, build TWO stations in Asheville for the coming train service. The first would go right where the current NCDOT plan puts it: in the pedestrian friendly tourist attraction, Biltmore Village. This location could also presumably serve Biltmore Estate through a shuttle bus service. The second would be near the intersection of Riverside Dr and Haywood Rd in the riverfront area, near where the old Asheville Station on Depot St used to be. This two-station setup is exactly what Asheville had back back in the heyday of passenger trains, and even if you were to to divide the traffic in and out of Asheville between the two stations, both of them would still be orders of magnitude busier than, say, the station in Old Fort.

The second half to the solution would be to construct a trolley line that goes up Clingman Rd and into the western part of downtown. The line would be about 1 mile long, and would serve to integrate the station/riverfront area and the heart of the city, spurring development in both. I daresay the trolley itself would become quite a popular tourist attraction - They could even buy back the old Asheville car that a museum in Charlotte owns, since they don't seem to be doing anything with it over there.

The sad truth is, unfortunately, that even a minimal and unobtrusive 1-mile long route like this would probably be deemed prohibitively expensive and never get implemented. Gonna need that money to build that 8-lane I-26, after all.

Pie In The Sky!

If you really want to talk fantasy, I've always enjoyed thinking about what Asheville would be like if streetcar service were restored. Up until now, I had only considered north-south and east-west, but I like your idea of a downtown circulator so I'll include that as well. How's this for a completely unrealistic but ideal plan:

North/South Line: The streetcar could go north along Merrimon Ave about as far as Beaverdam. Rather than following the exact path of US 25 through downtown on Broadway and Biltmore (which are IMO too narrow and crowded), it might be more practical to utilize the Lexington Ave ROW, one block to the west. South of downtown, it could follow Biltmore past McCormick Field, Mission St. Josephs, the Kenilworth neighborhood, and on to Biltmore Village, where it could connect with the depot in Biltmore. South of there, US 25 becomes a fast moving 5-lane highway, so I don't see any prospect for streetcar-friendly development, so I say the line should stop there, a total of about 4.5 miles.

While the old streetcars supposedly used to go as far north as Weaverville, besides that and the thing with Lexington Avenue, I think this is fairly similar to how they were before the tracks were torn up in the 1940s.

Any services to the south of Biltmore should be in the form of commuter or regional rail, on the lightly used Norfolk Southern line to Hendersonville and Saluda. But that's a whole other story. Maybe I'll write my thoughts about that one next :)

East/West Line: This line would head west along Haywood St, down Clingman Ave, and then follow Haywood Rd to a new Asheville Station in the Riverside area. The line could then continue along Haywood Rd across the French Broad and I-240 into West Asheville, probably ending somehwere around the intersection with Louisiana Ave. I hadn't really been thinking about it while I was dreaming up this plan, but it turns out this is almost exactly the route that the streetcars took back in the 1920s.

Through downtown, the civic center area would be difficult, but east of that it could easliy run along the overbuilt and undertraveled Woodfin St, to meet up with College St. Historically, there was never any service to the east, and since putting a streetcar line through the tunnel would be impossible, one of the four (!) lanes of eastbound I-240 could be removed, and the streetcars could be put in its place through Beaucatcher Cut. The streetcars could return to Tunnel Rd through the old Greyhound building, since by then Asheville will have a multimodal transit center that Greyhound could use instead. The line could then follow Tunnel Rd as far as the Asheville Mall, for an end-to-end trip of about 5.5 miles.

Downtown Circulator: This line would be roughly square-shaped and about 3 miles long. S. French Broad and Montford are the western edge, Hilliard the southern, and Charlotte/S. Charlotte the eastern. The northern end could be Chestnut St, but there's some vicious hills on that road and it goes straight through a residential area so alternatives could be investigated. A route along Martin Luther King instead of S. Charlotte might also be considered.

While there was a streetcar along Charlotte street that went to the Grove Park Inn, I have no idea historically about the rest of the route.

Check out these maps I made in MapPoint. They may help you to visualize what I'm talking about. Click to see a large version:

asheville_sm.gif asheville_dt_sm.gif

Some Issues

Many of the roads that the streetcars travel on are already somewhat narrow, so a double tracked line would be impossible. There could, however, be some island-style stops where the track splits in two on either side of the platform. The trolleys could perform a scheduled meet there, where one waits for the other and they both depart at the same time.

The tracks might also have to double as a left turn lane in some places. Trolleys can stop quickly enough to avoid an accident where a car is stuck waiting for traffic to clear, but motorists would have to be aware that there might be a trolley car coming up from behind before actually driving onto or over the track. While this system really isn't too complicated, and I saw it work flawlessly for a year while I lived in Hiroshima, Japan, drivers in the US may be unable to wrap their heads around the concept. People carelessly making left turns in front of an LRV has been the cause of numerous accidents in Houston.

Transferring from one trolley line to another at an intersection is a pain in the butt, since in order to accomplish a transfer you have to go across both the road that you're on and the road that you're transferring to, which can both be dangerous for elderly and disabled people, and a waste of time for anybody. So, wherever possible, transfer stops should be constructed such that the two lines share a short segment of track and use the same platform. Another convenience problem is that streetcars are slow when they're running in the middle of a street - probably even slower than a bus. In order to counteract this problem, Some sort of priority stoplight that turns green as a streetcar approaches would be essential to make the streetcars worthwhile.

Lastly, I'd just like to point out that all three of these trolley lines serve a very specific and useful purpose, and any one of the lines could be built and still be useful even without the other two. This would make incremental construction practical.

Back Down to Earth

Realistically, while streetcars are cool and all, I have to think that the hundreds of millions of dollars that would no doubt be required to build out this trolley network could be put to better use at improving the poor excuse for a bus system that Asheville has. Right now, Asheville buses only run their routes once every hour, making getting anywhere and back a whole day ordeal. I speculate that this is the biggest reason why ridership in Asheville is rather low: the buses are inexcusably inconvenient. With the hundreds of millions of dollars that would need to be spent on streetcars, I bet Asheville could purchase enough buses to run all routes at 15 minute headways, and finance the operation for 10 years. With a schedule like that, and given Asheville's demographics, you'd probably see a lot of people willing to give up their cars. Naysayers and carhuggers cry that it's preposterous, but I say that Asheville should try improving the headways to 15-20 minutes for 6 months on their two most heavily traveled routes, and watch how ridership increases. I really do believe that there is demand for public transit in Asheville, but in its present form it's just way too inconvenient to be of use for most people.

Maybe the Train Station -> Downtown streetcar line could be a practical exception, but I don't know.

A Far More Likely, Far More Bleak Future:

It's depressing to think, but it's probably more likely that the NCDOT will build I-26 out to 8 lanes and nothing will be done to improve public transit at all. Worse yet, if Asheville were to go with the car huggers, they will look at the "low" ridership numbers and decide to cancel all fixed route service and sell off their fleet of city buses. Car huggers across town would cheer because the buses were a nuisance anyway, with their frequent stops disrupting traffic all over the place. Asheville would then move to a 100% demand-responsive service aimed at the elderly and handicapped, requiring you to call an hour or more in advance to arrange a pick-up and drop-off location and time and charging you if you don't show- a subsidized taxi service. The carhuggers would then look at the even lower ridership numbers and the money saved, pat themselves on the back for a job well done, and go about spending the money they saved by adding some more lanes to a highway somewhere, the only truly American way to improve transportation.

Ugh.

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Wow. That's an old post :) My second-ever post on Urban Planet, if I recall.

I've had a couple years to mull it over, and my thoughts have changed.

I still think that an 8-lane highway is too much. A 6-lane highway should be plenty. But we're getting an 8-lane highway, end of story. So rather than expending all our energy fighting that, we should instead work with NCDOT to get the best possible design out of the highway that we're going to get. Forget who it was who said that first, but it's the truth.

Regarding streetcars. I think a few, short routes would be viable sooner than most would think. In particular, from Biltmore Village to downtown, or Haywood Street and the River District to downtown come to mind. Perhaps UNCA - Broadway - Downtown could come later. City council's got the members to do it, and they've already shown they're willing to spend money on transit (evening service, 90 day fare-free, etc).

Long-term, a city-wide streetcar system may be in the cards, but for the short- and medium- term, the city really needs to keep on encouraging urbanization and high-density infill, and keep up the incremental improvements to the bus system.

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The I-26 Connector page on the NCDOT website now has the public workshop maps available in .pdf format. The files are rather large; I saved all of them and it came to 123 MB. The maps are amazing though, and I can see why it's a $340,909,000 project now. There's a LOT of work ahead!

I-26 Connector "Workshop" Maps

Edited by cowboy_wilhelm

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I wanted to stick this on the North Carolina forum along with the Asheville forum so everyone will have a better chance of seeing it.

The I-26 Connector page on the NCDOT website now has the public workshop maps available in .pdf format. The files are rather large; I saved all of them and it came to 123 MB. The maps are amazing though, and I can see why it's a $340,909,000 project now (for around 4-5 miles). There's a LOT of work ahead!

I-26 Connector "Workshop" Maps

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There was a front page article, and a lengthy guest editorial in Sunday's paper about the i-26 bridge across the french broad. I am posting in this new topic for several reasons. There are two related threads: i-26 connector and Asheville Gateway . This bridge project is essentially a separate issue from the road widening issue and a majority of the posts on the 1-26 connector topic are centered on 6 or 8 or 4 lanes... the Asheville Gateway topic is similar, but I see the gateway as a component of a much larger bridge project.

the sketch (below) which accompanied the article isa proposal of what the area could look like... not the final.

post-262-1178588315_thumb.jpg

Edited by archiham04

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The latest news on the I-26 connector is that the DOT has reviewed the ADC proposal.

View the presentation on the subject here.

  • Not as cheap as ADC thought (DOT estimates $260 million)
  • Some engineering concerns not addressed by ADC (weave issues, slope, curvature)
  • Riverside Drive and the Norfolk-Southern's Craggy spur will have to be relocated (sounds like it's time for the RiverWay!)

NCDOT has expressed some support for the alternative, as seen in this article, but the above issues still have to be resolved, and the money question must be resolved as well (extra money spent on I-26 will have to come out of other projects in the region.)

The plan as analyzed by NCDOT involves putting I-240 on the top deck of the bridge and I-26 on the bottom deck. I wonder whether it wouldn't be better to have (for example) all westbound traffic on the top deck, and all eastbound traffic on the bottom deck? That saves quite a bit of space that would otherwise be used for road shoulders, and would allow for an extra space for the WB 240 traffic to merge into I-26 before getting to the Patton interchange.

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Posted below is an update from the Asheville Design Center recently published in the NCAPA newsletter, copied of course with the permission, and at the request, of the author:

The Asheville Design Center (ADC) was started with a grant from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in their program called AIA 150 in September 2006. It was a challenge for archi-tects to collaborate to address community de-sign issues that will affect their communities for 150 years. The team of architects, planners, urban designers, landscape architects, and community activists chose the I-26 connector project as their urban design problem. The con-nector will solve a much needed, albeit contro-versial, traffic issue in Asheville. The ADC was able to synthesize alternates that were pro-posed by DOT with the goals and desires of various community groups to create their own Alternate, dubbed Alternate 4b. The attached image is ADC's 4b in yellow, side-by-side with DOT's Alternate 4 in blue. The City and the County has partnered with the ADC to hire Figg Engineering to resolve some design concerns raised by DOT with the expectation that the ADC proposal could be introduced as a viable Alternate for a connector. If this is the case, there will be a considerable saving of land and costs of the project.

post-262-1196307736_thumb.jpg

DOT Alt. 4: 273 Acres of ROW 89 Acres of Asphalt 815,000 Sq.Ft. of bridges

ADC Alt. 4b: 135 Acres of ROW 35 Acres of Asphalt 400,000 Sq.Ft. of bridges

Additionally, the work of the ADC has raised community awareness toward larger planning issues that get left out of conversations of highway design and the aesthetics of the bridge over the river. As part of the study, the community has become interested in exploring a "signature" bridge over the French Broad River that could be a similar in aesthetic quality as the Cooper River bridge in Charleston, Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway, or the Maumee River bridge in Toledo. For more information visit www.ashevilledesigncenter.org

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Id do one larger landmark focal point central structure with smaller structures on each side of the valley; with suspension lines & separated east & west traffic flows. Its hard to say about the architecture... maybe something with a modern/deco tinge (Grove Arcade'ish). Plus some sort of accessible working space on top of the main central tower to shoot of fireworks for special occasions; everyone in the central city would see them from there! lol This could be fun to design in 3d!

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There was a pretty informative article in the Mountain Express about it, check it out here.

After considering it, I think I've come to the conclusion that the Alternative 4b, as is, is inferior to the NCDOT design. To copy and paste my comments from a different Mountain X article:

1. The interchange of Patton Avenue and I-26 sucks in the ADC alternative 4b. High speed offramps from both directions of Patton Avenue completely negate any attempts at making Patton a more people/pedestrian/bike friendly road. This is the deal breaker. There

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orz,

Quick point. What you are describing is not the ADC plan. It is the NCDOTs alternate 4B which is based on the ADC plan. Many of the concerns that you are voicing are have arisen since the plan was turned over to NCDOT, and the ADC is working to ensure they are addressed.

As for 4B being a great deal more expensive than 4… I haven’t seen the exact numbers. 4B is fewer miles and less land impact. Even if you take the numbers at their worst, you have to consider the overall future loss of this land and its tax value. To you really think that a large parcel of land overlooking the French Broad and downtown with no permanent structures will remain a trailer park forever? Sounds like a prime real estate development to me.

Edited by archiham04

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You raise some good points. However, the only alternative that NCDOT has officially recognized that came out of the public input process is Alternative 4b. Are they still listening regarding changes to this design? Is there some point at which they will no longer consider any major changes or new designs? How flexible are they / can they be at this point? Here's hoping that they're still listening.

And from reading the articles, it seems that the public was ready to get behind Alt 4b as is. That's dangerous. NCDOT might now simply cave to public opinion, and commit to building Alternative 4b, deficiencies and all, in order to have the decision over and done with - even if ADC is still trying to push for improvement.

That said, there are certainly ways that ADC is pushing that would yield a better design. Basically, what I'm questioning is, should they stick to modifying Alt 4b, or would modifying alternative 4 to take up less land and achieve some of their goals be more successful? In addition, there are some areas where they could push and get some real results, but other areas where it's extremely unlikely that NCDOT will budge at all (design speeds, interstate classification, weave length, etc.)

For example, the amount of land that Alt 4 takes up on the west bank of the FBR is a matter of concern, but it should not be the foremost concern. If they could take Alt 4 and reduce it from 3 new bridges to 2 new bridges, that would make Alt 4 much more palatable. The biggest concern IMO, though, is the downtown interchange design, and that's an issue common to both Alt 4 and Alt 4b. I've not seen much evidence of dialog between NCDOT, Figg, and ADC on that issue at all. I'm not directly involved in the I-26 debate by any stretch, but the downtown interchange design certainly has not been covered by the media, and the design has remained entirely unchanged throughout the process since A4 was first developed, so the proof is (not) in the pudding.

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Does anyone have any updates on this? Which design did they finally choose?

The 4 b option is in the official Eis, which is a huge accomplishment. Revisions are being made by ncdot to accommodate ADC. The final design and final decision are still up in the aiR. Check out ashevilledesigncenter.com for more.

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The 4 b option is in the official Eis, which is a huge accomplishment. Revisions are being made by ncdot to accommodate ADC. The final design and final decision are still up in the aiR. Check out ashevilledesigncenter.com for more.

ashevilledesigncenter.org is the proper URL.

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What are everyone's thoughts on the project getting delayed past 2020?

Has the I-26 connector always been considered an urban loop project? I was surprised to see that since it's a project to complete the gap in I-26 through Asheville.

Should NCDOT divide the project and have different sections funded and constructed separately? I.e., move forward with Section B (the new bridge) - the critical part of this project - using traditional funding, then widen I-240 at a later date with urban loop funding?

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Well, with Governor Perdue's plan to accelerate urban loop projects, the I-26 connector project is back on the drawing board. However, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, the funding is only for widening I-240 in West Asheville (Section A). Right-of-way acquisition should begin in 2018, with construction starting in 2020. In the most recent STIP, funding for the project had disappeared and delayed the project far past 2020.

Not sure what the widening alone will accomplish. Perhaps they're working on a method for funding the construction of the new bridge across the French Broad River (next Mobility Fund project?!).

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The I-26 connector is back on the radar screen for the umpteenth time in its sordid 25 year history. I remember doing a project in sixth grade civics class in 1993 looking at the options for the I-26 connector. On the table at the time were an alternative that went through town and several greenfield bypass routes. In 1995, The decision was made to go through town rather than on a bypass, and that's where we've been stuck ever since.

The latest route that seems to be gathering momentum is some variation of alternative 3 that doesn't separate Patton Avenue from I-240 but does borrow at least one aspect from alternative B4b, moving the bridge over the French Broad River further south.

If B4b were chosen it would be much more expensive, with more extensive bridges over the river, and it would have also added a sharp curve near Hill Street. I guess the message is that this is the best we're going to get.

And, to tell the truth - separating Patton Avenue from I-240 probably isn't worth spending $100 million more on. Patton Avenue is not a pedestrian friendly corridor, and never will be. West Asheville already has a great one in Haywood Street. Patton Avenue is the auto sewer.

Maybe the focus should now be on getting the best design within the constraints of the new alternative.

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