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 are available for public and agency review and comment.
- The DEIS and Public Hearing Maps are available for public viewing at the following locations:
NCDOT Division 13
55 Orange St.
Asheville, NC 28801
City of Asheville Transportation
70 Court Plaza - Mezzanine Level
Asheville, NC 28802
- The DEIS is also available for public viewing at the following public library locations:
State Library of North Carolina:
109 E. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC 27601
Pack Memorial Library:
67 Haywood St.
Asheville, NC 28801
West Asheville Library
942 Haywood Road
Asheville, NC 28806
Buncombe County Law Library
60 Court Plaza
Asheville, NC 28801
- 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.
- A public hearing will be held on Nov. 16, 2015, at the Renaissance Hotel Grand Ballroom, 31 Woodfin St., Asheville. NCDOT representatives will be available from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. for the pre-hearing open house to answer questions and receive comments on the project. The formal public hearing will then begin at 7 p.m. with a review of the project, followed by a public comment session. Public comments on the DEIS will be received through Dec. 16, 2015.
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.
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. 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.
You can also send us your comments about this project using the comment form that will be distributed at the public hearing on Nov. 16, 2015.
Next opportunity: Nov. 16, 2015, when NCDOT is holding a pre-hearing open house and public hearing.
NCDOT representatives will be available between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to answer to answer questions and receive comments relative to the proposed project. The opportunity to submit written comments or questions will also be provided. Interested participants may attend at any time during the above mentioned hours.
A formal presentation will begin at 7 p.m. The presentation will consist of an explanation of the proposed corridor location, design, right of way, relocation requirements/procedures and the state-federal relationship. The hearing will be open to those present for statements, questions and comments. The presentation and comments will be recorded and a transcript will be prepared. There are currently several alternatives under consideration and public input will be used in selecting an alternative. This video provides an animated representation of the proposed alternatives for each section of the project, and also contains narration which further serves as a guide as to how each alternative would operate if constructed.
A live webinar, via GoToWebinar, will also be available during this meeting for anyone who cannot attend in person. The overview will run at 7 p.m. as the public hearing begins. Comments will be accepted during the webinar. However, responses will not be provided until after the comment period has closed on Dec. 16, 2015.
For more information about the hearing please contact the NCDOT public involvement officer, Drew Joyner, P.E., at 1-800-233-6315.
Anyone who cannot attend a session in person and/or would like to submit their comments electronically can do so through EngageNCDOT, an online public engagement tool. The following handout and comment forms will be distributed at the meeting. If you cannot attend, you may download the comment form and send to Mr. Joyner via mail.
**All comments on the DEIS need to be submitted to NCDOT no later than Dec. 16, 2015.
Need special services or assistance for the public hearing?
NCDOT will provide auxiliary aids and services under the Americans with Disabilities Act for persons who wish to participate in this public hearing and require special services. Call the project hotline at 1-800-233-6315 as early as possible for these arrangements.
A Spanish language interpreter will be present. Se habla español.
If assistance in a language other than Spanish is needed, please request it prior to the meeting by calling 1-800-233-6315.
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
- Email: Contact Us
1548 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1548