Section Boundary Update
Section boundaries for Interstate 26 Connector, Section A, B, C, and D were revised to include some improvements to I-40 in Section A. Section A is now subdivided into Sections AA, AB, and AC for funding and scheduling and includes most of the work previously planned for Section A. More information about the section boundary update can be found in the current N.C. Department of Transportation State Transportation Improvement Program.
Section Boundary Update
Section boundaries for I-26 Connector, Section A, B, and C were revised to include improvements to Riverside Drive as I-26 Connector, Section D as part of the current NCDOT State Transportation Improvement Program.
These improvements were previously STIP Project U-5868 and were included as part of I-26 Connector, Section B in the Final Environmental Impact Statement. I-26 Connector, Section D will be constructed at the same time as I-26 Connector, Section B.
A map of the current section boundaries can be viewed on Project Maps.
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.
Approximately 450 people attended NCDOT's public hearing in Asheville on Dec. 4, 2018, in which they reviewed and provided input on the refined designs of the Preferred Alternative. NCDOT received 466 comments during the comment period, which ended on Jan. 4, 2019.
NCDOT prepared refined designs of the Preferred Alternative, which was recommended in May 2016 (see description of alternatives below). These refinements were based on the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization’s updated traffic projections as well as input received from the community and city of Asheville. This was done so that the project could better meet the community vision for the project while still meeting federal design and traffic operations standards. .
May 18, 2016: Recommended Alternatives Chosen
NCDOT recommended the following least environmentally damaging routes for the three sections that make up the I-26 Connector:
- Section A: The recommended alternative, Widening Alternative, includes expanding the existing I-240 four-lane roadway from the I-26/I-240 interchange to the I-240 interchange at Patton Avenue. There would be upgrades to the interchanges at Brevard, Amboy and Haywood road. It would also extend Amboy Road across I-240 to Brevard Road, opposite Shelburne Road. (View maps: Map 1, Map 2)
- Section B: The recommended alternative, Alternative 4B, would put the interstate on a new location, from the Patton Avenue interchange to across the French Broad River just north of the Captain Jeff Bowen bridges, and connect with U.S. 19/23/70. It would allow Patton Avenue to become a local street, opening up access for bicycles and pedestrians along the roadway. (View maps: Map 1, Map 2, Map 3)
- Section C: The recommended alternative, Alternative F1, calls for upgrades for interchanges at Smokey Park Highway (U.S. 19/23/74A), as well as I-26/I-240 and Brevard Road. It would maintain the existing two-level configuration of the I-26/I-40/I-240 interchange and add additional through lanes, as well as a new loop from I-240 West to I-40 East and a ramp from I-40 West to I-240 East. (View maps: Map 1, Map 2, Map 3)
November 2015: Draft Environmental Impact Statement
NCDOT released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and updated the public hearing maps.
Comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement were accepted until Dec. 16, 2015. A public meeting and public hearing were held Nov. 16, 2015, during which time the following materials were made available to the public:
The DEIS is the second one for the project. The Federal Highway Administration rescinded the 2008 DEIS because of 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 were updated in the 2015 DEIS.
September 2015: Project Issues Identified
Several key project issues were identified by the public regarding:
- Bike and pedestrian accommodations
- Concerns about the traffic projection model that would be used to select the preferred alternative
- Impacts associated with the project if it were constructed with six through-lanes as opposed to eight-through lanes in Section A (the widening section of I-240)
These issues were addressed within the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and were presented to the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization.
June 2015: Project Funding
The I-26 Connector was included in the 2016-2025 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), which means funding was allocated for right-of-way purchasing and construction efforts.