Asheville - The N.C. Department of Transportation, working with local officials and stakeholders in the community to respond to concerns about the impact of the Interstate 26 Connector project, is proposing several refinements to the project design.
One proposal is that section A of the project should have three thru lanes in each direction. Section A is the upgrading of the 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. It includes improvements for the Brevard Road, Amboy Road, Haywood Road and Patton Avenue interchanges.
The proposed number of thru lanes for the project is based on the minimum number of lanes needed for the traffic volumes projected for the year 2040 and necessary highway design standards. Interchange ramps are closely spaced in this area, so additional lanes (auxiliary lanes) may be provided where needed in Section A between entrance ramps and exit ramps. Auxiliary lanes would help prevent bottleneck points and reduce slowdowns, brake-tapping and other issues caused by merging vehicles along I-26 between interchanges, making it safer for motorists.
Once a preferred alternative was chosen in May 2016, an updated traffic forecast from the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization based on the projected growth for the region was used to update the traffic operations study, which helps determine the number of lanes for the project.
Additional changes are also being proposed based on the updated traffic data. Several collector lanes along I-40 between I-240/I-26 and Exit 44 in Section C of the project will not to be needed as previously thought. Based on community input, the interchanges at Brevard Road and Amboy Road along I-240/Future I-26 are proposed to be combined into one interchange to reduce the overall footprint in that area.
The project team has also been working with local leaders on possible additional improvements such as bike lanes, sidewalks, etc. The City of Asheville would share in the cost of any of these type of improvements.
The I-26 Connector Project is approximately a seven-mile interstate freeway project that would to connect I-26 in southwest Asheville to U.S. 19/23/70 in northwest Asheville. This project will upgrade and widen I-240 from I-40 to Patton Avenue, then proceed northward from Patton Avenue on a 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.
In addition to Section A, there are two other sections of the I-26 Connector:
Section B: Includes construction of the interstate on new location from the Patton Avenue interchange north across the French Broad River, tying into U.S. 19/23/70 south of Broadway.
Section C: Includes improvements to the I-26/I-240 interchange with I-40 and the Brevard Road and Smokey Park Highway interchanges.
Section B and C are scheduled to begin in 2020, using a design-build process. That means the design and construction are under a single contract and can take place at the same time. This reduces overall construction time and allows the contractor to make innovations that can lessen environmental impacts and help alleviate driving delays for motorists. Section A is currently not funded.