The I-26 Connector Project is an approximately 7-mile interstate freeway project that is being proposed to connect I-26 in southwest Asheville to US 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 US 19-23-70 just south of Exit 25 (Broadway). Upon completion, this project will be part of the I-26 Interstate that extends from Charleston, S.C. to Kingsport, Tenn.
The proposed I-26 Connector in Asheville includes three sections:
- Section C: Includes improvements to the I-40 interchanges with Smokey Park Highway, I-26/I-240 and Brevard Road.
- Section A: Section A: Includes upgrading 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. This includes upgrades to the Brevard Road, Amboy Road and Haywood Road interchanges.
- Section B: Includes construction of the interstate on new location from the Patton Avenue interchange north across the French Broad River, tying into US 19-23-70 south of Broadway.
- A new Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and updated public hearing maps were made available online and at several locations in Asheville for public and agency review.
An open house and public hearing were held in Asheville on Nov. 16, 2015, and public feedback on the DEIS was accepted during a formal comment period that ended Dec. 16, 2015.
- Several key project issues have been identified by the public regarding bike and pedestrian accommodations, concerns about the traffic projection model that will be used to select the preferred alternative, and impacts associated with the project if it were constructed with six through lanes versus eight through lanes in Section A (the widening section of I-240). These issues have been addressed within the DEIS and have recently been presented to the FBRMPO. The presentation can be viewed here.
Project Alternatives Modification: 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 (sidewalk, greenway, transit, bicycle, connectivity in addition to motor vehicles) between west Asheville and Asheville.
A new alternative: Alternative 3C has also been developed which is similar to Alternative 3. During this time, additional improvements have been implemented to the other project alternatives to better accommodate future traffic demands while trying to further avoid or minimize impacts to the community.
Project Funding: While funding for construction was not programmed in 2012, project development studies were reinitiated to move the project forward. As part of a new project prioritization process, local planning organizations and NCDOT Divisions have reprioritized projects by assigning relative scores to individual transportation projects. Scores were calculated based on a number of factors, including: congestion, safety and mobility, cost and economic impact. These recommendations have been included as Project I-2513 in the 2016-2025 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) which was released in June 2015. This project was included in the STIP, allocating funding for right-of-way purchasing and construction efforts. For additional project updates, please visit the City of Asheville and FBRMPO websites.
Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS): The 2008 DEIS was rescinded by the Federal Highway Administration due to changes in project alternatives. Alternative 2 was eliminated in December 2009 due to unacceptable traffic operations. Alternative 3C, a slight modification of Alternative 3, was developed to further reduce impacts to the natural and human environments. Alternative 4B, a version of Alternative 4, was added by request of the Asheville Design Center and the City of Asheville. Preliminary designs and analysis of alternatives have been updated in the 2015 DEIS and are now ready for public and resource agency review and comment. All comments on the 2015 DEIS must be submitted to NCDOT by Dec. 16, 2015.
Why is this action needed?
- A better transportation facility is needed to connect I-26 south of Asheville with US 19-23-70 north of Asheville.
The construction of NCDOT TIP Project A-0010 (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, Tenn. to I-240 in Asheville. I-26 is planned to connect the Port of Charleston, S.C., with the mountains of North Carolina joining I-240 at the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange southwest of Asheville. I-240 west of Asheville, connects I-26 with US 19-23-70. This freeway, constructed in the 1960s, does not meet current interstate design standards. The existing interchange connecting US 19-23-70 from the north with I-240 contains sharply-curved, single-lane ramps. Freeway traffic using this interchange is restricted to one lane in each direction, which causes traffic to back up 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 experience traffic delays and traffic back-ups. Traffic congestion and resulting delays will continue to worsen in the future as the population increases.
- I-240 needs improvements.
Existing I-240 west of Asheville and the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange do not meet current interstate design standards. Multiple roadway segments west of Asheville currently have higher accident rates than the average rate for similar North Carolina facilities, demonstrating the need for improvements along this section of the facility.
What is the purpose of this project?
- Upgrade the Interstate corridor
from I-26 south of Asheville through the US 19-23 interchange to meet design standards for the interstate system. The project will also provide a link in the transportation system connecting a direct, multi-lane freeway facility meeting interstate standards from the Port of Charleston, S.C., to I-81 near Kingsport, Tenn.
- To improve the capacity deficiencies
of existing I-240 west of Asheville to accommodate the existing and forecasted (2033 design year) traffic in this growing area.
- To reduce traffic delays and congestion
along the I-240 crossing of the French Broad River, which currently operates at capacity.
- To increase the remaining useful service
of the existing Captain Jeff Bowen Bridges (Patton Avenue) by substantially reducing the volume of traffic on this vital crossing of the French Broad River.
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 opposing 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. Access would be via interchanges only.
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.
Since 1989, the NCDOT has held numerous meetings with community leaders, local interest groups, business groups and affected business owners and neighborhood groups about this project. The objective of the community outreach program is to solicit input through an open, dynamic process that includes as many residents, business owners, property owners, local agencies, community groups and other stakeholders within the project study area as possible. This process is structured to involve people early and often and to share information as it becomes available. A variety of techniques has been and will continue to be used to ensure meaningful involvement from the community.
Get Involved, Stay Informed
Public participation and feedback is integral to the project development process. By sharing your ideas and concerns, you can help us identify appropriate transportation solutions in your community.
In an effort to facilitate and encourage public participation on this project, NCDOT offers EngageNCDOT an online engagement tool. Log in and share your thoughts with us.
Comments to be considered for the DEIS were accepted until Dec. 16, 2015, and a public meeting and public hearing were held Nov. 16, 2015, during which time the following materials were made available to the public:
I-240 looking west toward Jeff Bowen Bridges
I-240 eastbound looking north toward Patton Ave
US 19-23-70 southbound off ramp toward Patton Ave
I-240 eastbound east of
Jeff Bowen Bridges
I-240 westbound service road west of Jeff Bowen Bridges
I-240 & US 19-23-70/Patton Ave Interchange
I-240 at US 19-23 Business (Haywood St.)
Michael Wray, P.E.
Project Planning Engineer, Central Unit
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1548 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1548