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 has performed preliminary noise analyses for this project and an initial Traffic Noise Report has been prepared. In this study, noise walls were evaluated at 26 locations along the project. Of these, eight preliminarily meet feasibility and reasonableness criteria. These eight locations are shown in red hatching as potential noise abatement areas on the public hearing maps. As part of the project’s final design activities, additional noise studies will be conducted to identify recommended noise wall locations.
Once recommended noise wall locations are identified during final design, all property owners and tenants who are benefitted by a wall will be asked to vote on the wall. At that time, NCDOT will contact property owners and tenants who are eligible to vote and explain the balloting process and what they are being asked to vote on. Only recommended noise walls that pass this voting process will be constructed.
An important concept in Federal regulation and in 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 for this project 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 discusses 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 project impact to low-income and minority communities as well as historic properties.
NCDOT is also working with the city of Asheville and the Aesthetic Committee. The Aesthetic Committee 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) allow 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 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 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 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.