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Project Highlights

​​​Record of Decision Signed 

The Record of Decision​, which addresses comments on the 2020 Final Environmental Impact Statement and potential environmental effects of the Selected Alternative, was signed on May 26, 2023. ​

Traffic Noise Report Prepared

During planning and design for highway projects, the N.C. Department of Transportation must identify traffic noise impacts, examine potential noise abatement, incorporate feasible and reasonable noise abatement measures, and coordinate with local officials to provide helpful information on compatible land use planning and control. The procedures for doing this are stipulated by Federal Regulation (23 CFR 772) and the NCDOT Traffic Noise Policy.

NCDOT performed preliminary noise analyses for this project and an initial Traffic Noise Report was prepared. Noise walls were evaluated at 26 locations. Eight of these — shown in red hatching as potential noise abatement areas on the public hearing maps — preliminarily meet feasibility and reasonableness criteria. As part of the project’s final design activities, additional studies will be conducted to identify recommended noise wall locations. 

Once recommended locations are identified during final design, property owners and tenants who would benefit from a wall will be asked to vote. NCDOT will contact property owners and tenants who are eligible to vote and explain the balloting process. Only recommended noise walls that pass this voting process will be constructed.  

An important concept in federal regulations and the NCDOT Traffic Noise Policy is the Date of Public Knowledge, which stipulates when NCDOT is and is not responsible for providing noise abatement. The Date of Public Knowledge of the location and potential noise impacts will be the approval date of the Record of Decision. The Record of Decision is expected to be approved in summer 2020.

NCDOT is not responsible for evaluating or implementing any noise walls to protect developed lands that did not have building permits issued before the Date of Public Knowledge. NCDOT advocates use of local government authority to regulate land development, planning, design and construction in such a way that noise impacts are minimized.

Final Environmental Impact Statement Signed

The Final Environmental Impact Statement​, which addresses comments on the 2015 Draft Environmental Impact Statement and potential environmental effects of the Preferred Alternative, was signed on Jan. 9, 2020. 

NCDOT is coordinating with the city of Asheville to include bicycle and pedestrian improvements in the project and how to reduce the impact to low-income and minority communities as well as historic properties.

NCDOT is also working with the Aesthetic Committee, which will make recommendations to the city to determine aesthetic improvements for the project.

The final step in the project's planning phase will be to issue a Record of Decision, which will address comments received in the Final Environmental Impact Statement. The Record of Decision will also identify the preferred alternative, present the basis for the decision, and provide information on the adopted means to avoid, minimize and compensate for environmental impacts.

Additional refinement of the Preferred Alternative will occur before right of way is acquired and the project is let for construction.

Why Is the I-26 Connector Needed?
  • A better transportation facility is needed to connect I-26 south of Asheville with U.S. 19/23/70 north of Asheville. U.S. 19/23 improvements (from Asheville to the Tennessee state line) will allow motorists to travel on a fully controlled-access, median-divided freeway from I-81 near Kingsport, Tennessee, to I-240 in Asheville.

  • I-26 is planned to connect the Port of Charleston, South Carolina, 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 U.S. 19/23/70. This freeway, built in the 1960s, does not meet current interstate design standards.

  • The existing interchange connecting U.S. 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 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.

Project Purpose

  • Upgrade the interstate corridor from I-26 south of Asheville through the U.S. 19/23 interchange to meet design standards for the interstate system. The project would also provide a link in the transportation system connecting a direct, multi-lane freeway facility meeting interstate standards from 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 (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 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.

Community Outreach

Since 1989, NCDOT has held numerous meetings with community leaders, local interest groups, business groups and affected business owners and neighborhood groups about the I-26 Connector project.

The objective 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 are integral to the project development process. By sharing your ideas and concerns, you can help us identify appropriate transportation solutions in your community.

Comments can also be addressed to the project contact​.

5/14/2024 2:09 PM