The I-26 Connector Project is approximately a 7-mile, interstate freeway project that is being proposed to connect I-26 in southwest Asheville to U.S. 19/23/70 in northwest Asheville. NCDOT has programmed this project to upgrade and widen I-240 from I-40 to Patton Avenue, and then proceed northward from Patton Avenue on new location across the French Broad River and connect to U.S. 19/23/70 just south of Exit 25 (Riverside Drive - Broadway - UNC-Asheville). Upon completion, this project will be part of the I-26 Interstate that extends from Charleston, South Carolina, to Kingsport, Tennessee.
The proposed I-26 Connector in Asheville includes:
- Upgrading 4.3 miles of existing I-240 from the I-26/I-240 interchange with I-40 to the I-240 interchange with Patton Avenue, west of the French Broad River.
- Improvements to the I-26/I-240 interchange with I-40 and Brevard Road (N.C. 191), Amboy Road (S.R. 3556), Haywood Road (S.R. 3548/U.S. 19/23 Business) and Patton Avenue (U.S. 19-23) interchanges.
- Construction of the interstate on new location from the Patton Avenue interchange north for 2.6 miles across the French Broad River, tying into U.S. 19/23/70 south of Broadway (S.R. 1781).
News and Updates
In 2010 a new priority rating system was implemented by NCDOT. The new ranking of the I-26 Connector Project was much lower than its previous ranking and work was halted. In the fall of 2011, Governor Bev Perdue announced a plan to accelerate Urban Loop projects around the state, including the I-26 project, using different funding options. At this time (Spring of 2012), the necessary funding is not available.
While funding is not yet available, project development studies were reinitiated in Spring 2012. Since 2012, project alternatives in Section "B" (the new location portion north of Patton Avenue, across the French Broad River) have been modified to avoid impacts to the Emma Road community and to identify multimodal connectivity between west Asheville and Asheville. A new alternative, 3C, has been developed. This alternative is similar to alternative 3, but with a smaller footprint.
As part of a new prioritizations process, local planning organizations and NCDOT Divisions are reprioritizing projects and assigning relative scores to individual transportation projects. Scores are calculated based on a number of factors including; congestions, safety & mobility, cost, and economic impact. Draft recommendations are anticipated in May 2014, with a revised State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) scheduled for release in October 2015.
For additional project updates, please visit the City of Asheville's website or the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organizations website.
Post Public Hearing Meeting Minutes
The NCDOT has released the May 4, 2009 Meeting Minutes to Post Hearing Meeting. You can view it here.
The NCDOT will be mailing newsletter No. 10 to everyone on the project mailing list no later than May 1, 2014.
Draft Environmental Impact Statement
The NCDOT released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) in March 2008. A new DEIS was being prepared from 2009-2010 to include the 4B alternative, but was put on hold after the priority ranking system results (see News and Updates). Work on a new version is continuing currently, while the March 2008 DEIS will be rescinded by the Federal Highway Administrations prior to the release of the new version in spring of 2015.
Alternative 2 for section B of the project has been officially removed from alternatives being considered due to operational problems that appeared when the updated traffic forecast was prepared. On December 15, 2009, the project merger team unanimously agreed to remove Alternative 2 from section B.
Alternative 4B, a version of Alternative 4 that was requested for inclusion by the Asheville Design Center and the City of Asheville, was officially added at the same December 15, 2009 merger meeting that eliminated Alternate 2.
Alternative 3C, a slight modification of Alternative 3, was developed to further reduce impacts to the natural and human environments. Preliminary designs were completed in March 2014 and this alternative will be shown to the public at the Public Meeting in May 2014.
All "B" section alternatives (3, 3C, 4, and 4B) have been modified to better accommodate pedestrian and bicycle access, as well as avoid impacts to the Emma Road community.
The NCDOT has held numerous meetings with community leaders, local interest groups, business groups and the affected business owners and neighborhood groups about this project since 1989. For more information please see the Full Public Involvement Document.
The latest public meeting was held on May 12, from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM at the Renaissance Hotel, 31 Woodfin St, Asheville, NC. For more information about the meeting please contact Jamille Robbins at (919) 707-6085.
Project Overview and Purpose
- To provide a freeway-to-freeway connection between I-26 south of Asheville and US 19-23 north of Asheville. The existing connection between US 19-23 from the north and I-240 follows sharply-curved, single-lane ramps that do not meet the design requirements for an interstate freeway. While also providing a link in the transportation system connecting a direct, multi-lane, freeway facility meeting interstate standards from the Port of Charleston, South Carolina to I-81 near Kingsport, Tennessee.
- To improve the capacity deficiencies of existing I-240 west of Asheville to accommodate the existing and forecasted (2035 design year) traffic in this growing area. And to improve the safety of I-240 on the west side of Asheville.
- To reduce traffic delays and congestion along the I-240 crossing of the French Broad River (Patton Avenue) which currently operates at capacity.
- To increase the remaining useful service of the existing Smoky Park Bridges (Patton Avenue) by substantially reducing the volume of traffic on this vital crossing of the French Broad River.
Why is this action needed?
- A better transportation facility is needed to connect US 19-23 north of Asheville with I-26 south of Asheville. The construction of NCDOT TIP Project A-10 (US 19-23 improvements from Asheville to the Tennessee State Line) allows motorists to travel on a fully controlled-access, median-divided freeway from I-81 near Kingsport, Tennessee to I-240 in Asheville (see Figure 2). I-26 currently connects the port of Charleston, South Carolina with the mountains of North Carolina terminating at the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange southwest of Asheville. I-240 west of Asheville, connects I-26 with US 19-23. This freeway, constructed in the 1960's, does not meet current interstate design standards. The existing interchange connecting US 19-23 from the north with I-240 contains sharply-curved, single-lane ramps. Freeway traffic using this interchange will be restricted to one lane in each direction which would cause traffic to queue onto I-240 at its most congested location in Asheville.
- Increasing traffic volumes have substantially reduced the level of service along I-240 on the west side of Asheville. Several sections of I-240 currently operate at capacity, resulting in traffic delays and queuing on I-240. Traffic congestion and resulting delays will continue to worsen in the future as the population increases.
- I-240 needs safety improvements. Existing I-240 west of Asheville does not meet current interstate safety standards. I-240, west of Asheville, currently has a higher accident rate than the average rate for similar North Carolina facilities, demonstrating the need for safety improvements along this section of the facility.
What type of road is proposed?
The proposed I-26 Connector will be a median-divided, fully controlled-access freeway. To reduce the required right-of-way, a barrier median dividing the directions of travel is proposed. Controlled-access means there will be no driveways or at-grade intersections (stop signs and traffic lights) along the route.
Environmental Study Process
The proposed I-26 Connector will involve state and federal funds. Any agency that proposes a project involving federal funds must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). For more information please see the Environmental Study Process Document
In late 1995, NCDOT contracted with a private consulting firm to develop conceptual engineering plans and begin environmental studies for the proposed I-26 Connector. For more information please see the Full Project History Document
Michael Wray, P.E.
Project Planning Engineer, Central Unit
- Email: Contact Us
- Phone: (919) 707-6050
- Address: 1548 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1548
Resources for Local Property Owners
In many cases, it is inevitable that a certain amount of private property must be acquired. The displacement of homes and businesses is minimized to the extent practicable. The following brochures will answer questions about this process.